PURPOSE: In scoliosis monitoring, tracked ultrasound has been explored as a safer imaging alternative to traditional radiography. The use of ultrasound in spinal curvature measurement requires identification of vertebral landmarks, but bones have reduced visibility in ultrasound imaging and high quality ultrasound machines are often expensive and not portable. In this work, we investigate the image quality and measurement accuracy of a low cost and portable ultrasound machine in comparison to a standard ultrasound machine in scoliosis monitoring. <p> </p>METHODS: Two different kinds of ultrasound machines were tested on three human subjects, using the same position tracker and software. Spinal curves were measured in the same reference coordinate system using both ultrasound machines. Lines were defined by connecting two symmetric landmarks identified on the left and right transverse process of the same vertebrae, and spinal curvature was defined as the transverse process angle between two such lines, projected on the coronal plane. <p> </p>RESULTS: Three healthy volunteers were scanned by both ultrasound configurations. Three experienced observers localized transverse processes as skeletal landmarks and obtained transverse process angles in images obtained from both ultrasounds. The mean difference per transverse process angle measured was 3.00 ±2.1°. 94% of transverse processes visualized in the Sonix Touch were also visible in the Telemed. Inter-observer error in the Telemed was 4.5° and 4.3° in the Sonix Touch. <p> </p>CONCLUSION: Price, convenience and accessibility suggest the Telemed to be a viable alternative in scoliosis monitoring, however further improvements in measurement protocol and image noise reduction must be completed before implementing the Telemed in the clinical setting.
PURPOSE: Spinal curvature monitoring is essential in making treatment decisions in scoliosis. Monitoring entails radiographic examinations, however repeated ionizing radiation exposure has been shown to increase cancer risk. Ultrasound does not emit ionizing radiation and is safer for spinal curvature monitoring. We investigated a clinical sonography protocol and challenges associated with position-tracked ultrasound in spinal curvature measurement in scoliosis. METHODS: Transverse processes were landmarked along each vertebra using tracked ultrasound snapshots. The transverse process angle was used to determine the orientation of each vertebra. We tested our methodology on five patients in a local pediatric scoliosis clinic, comparing ultrasound to radiographic curvature measurements. RESULTS: Despite strong correlation between radiographic and ultrasound curvature angles in phantom studies, we encountered new challenges in the clinical setting. Our main challenge was differentiating transverse processes from ribs and other structures during landmarking. We observed up to 13° angle variability for a single vertebra and a 9.85° ± 10.81° difference between ultrasound and radiographic Cobb angles for thoracic curvatures. Additionally, we were unable to visualize anatomical landmarks in the lumbar region where soft tissue depth was 25–35mm. In volunteers with large Cobb angles (greater than 40° thoracic and 60° lumbar), we observed spinal protrusions resulting in incomplete probe-skin contact and partial ultrasound images not suitable for landmarking. CONCLUSION: Spinal curvature measurement using tracked ultrasound is viable on phantom spine models. In the clinic, new challenges were encountered which must be resolved before a universal sonography protocol can be developed.