Fitbit to the Rescue? Northwestern University Medicine to Launch Tracking Study of Spine Surgery Recovery

Fitbit to the Rescue Northwestern University Medicine to Launch Tracking Study of Spine Surgery RecoveryIt’s a study that could tell surgeons a lot about what happens to people both before and after minimally invasive spine surgery.

Using Fitbit trackers, Zachary Smith, MD, an assistant professor in Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University, will soon launch a study to monitor patient physical activity.

It’s designed to help doctors better predict recovery times for patients who undergo the spine surgery.

“During the four weeks before a surgery and for six months afterward, the Fitbits will capture personal data on a patient’s steps and activity levels,” according to a university release.

“An activity monitor allows us to have an objective, numerically exact, and continuous measure of activity,” according to Dr. Smith. “This can show exactly how much function a patient has regained and, critically, when and if it occurs during the recovery period. This may allow us to predict when a patient will be back to 50 percent activity, 100 percent activity, or even 200 percent activity in the future.”

Dr. Smith and his study colleagues are now enrolling patients and accumulating data. The results, they say, are preliminary, but promising.

“We’ve already seen how surgery changes activity in our first patients,” Dr. Smith explained. “It appears that almost all patients go through a four- to six-week period where their activity is decreased. Just over a month out from many of the surgeries, they get back to their pre-operative level. Then they slowly continue to climb to new levels of activity that they could never have reached before.”

While the current study zeroes in on minimally invasive spine surgeries (degenerative disease and deformity, such as correcting scoliosis), Dr. Smith said he would like to apply this physical activity monitoring approach to all spine operations in the future.

“We hope to integrate this into our practice so that it becomes a universal and accepted means of evaluating patients and evaluating our outcomes,” he said. “Most importantly, we hope to make patients more involved in their own self-evaluation, recovery and spinal health. I strongly believe that a motivated patient will get better results. Working hand-in-hand with our patients to improve our outcomes will only make us more effective.”

More details on the study and registration information is available here.

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