Background: The assessment of spinal stiffness by manual palpation in clinical settings has demonstrated both poor accuracy and reliability. More recently, mechanical methods for assessment of spinal stiffness have demonstrated superior accuracy and reliability. However, mechanical methods of spinal stiffness assessment can be expensive, time consuming and/or unsuited to clinical practice. While a new device has been designed to address these issues (VerteTrack), its benchtop performance remains unknown.
Aim: To measure the bench-top performance of VerteTrack.
Methods: A series of laboratory-based experiments were conducted in February 2018 to investigate the accuracy (precision and bias) of load and displacement measurements obtained by VerteTrack and then were compared against an appropriate reference standard. Measurements of both multiple-level continuous assessment (multiple spinal levels measured), and single-level assessment (single spinal level measured) were performed on a viscoelastic foam medium (AIREX® balance beam, Switzerland) and the resulting stiffness calculated.
Results: VerteTrack demonstrated high precision at all loads and displacements. There was minimal systematic measurement bias identified for applied versus reference load (mean bias = − 0.123 N; 95%CI − 0.182 to 0.428 N, p < .001), and no systematic measurement bias for measured versus reference displacement (mean difference = 0.02 mm; 95%CI − 0.09 to 0.14 mm, p < .001). The magnitude of stiffness obtained during multiple-level continuous assessment was on average 0.25 N/mm (2.79%) less than that for single-level assessment (95%CI − 0.67 to 0.17 N/mm, p < .001).
Conclusions: VerteTrack demonstrated high accuracy (high precision, low bias) under bench-top conditions. The difference in stiffness found between multiple versus single spinal levels should be considered in the research context, but is unlikely to be clinically relevant. The results of this study demonstrate that VerteTrack may be suitable for both single and multi-level spinal stiffness measurements in-vivo.
Author keywords: Spinal stiffness — Spinal stiffness assessment — Mechanical spinal stiffness device — VerteTrack and instrumented spinal stiffness measurements
Author affiliations: AY, MSS, ASD: Department of Chiropractic, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia; GNK: Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; AYLW: Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
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