Study on effect of vibration on spinal implants wins 2011 Grammer Award


A study that found that driving a car or using public transport, as long as the patient sits against a backrest, can be allowed shortly after vertebral body replacement surgery has won the largest award given for spinal research worldwide, it was announced at Eurospine 2011 (19–21 October, Milan, Italy)


The Grammer Award, which is jointly sponsored by the driver and passenger seat manufacturer Grammer and the European Spine Journal, gives €20,000—the highest amount awarded for any spinal research prize worldwide—to the best basic science paper that has been published in the European Spine Journal in the past academic year (ie, 2010/2011). The aim is to encourage basic science research in the field of spinal disorders.


Hans-Joachim Wilke, past president of Eurospine and Co-director, Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics, University of Ulm, Germany, presented the award to lead investigator Antonius Rohlmann, Julius Wolff Institut, Berlin, Germany, at this year’s Eurospine meeting. Wilke said: “It is often very difficult to decide with basic science and applied research, who to select as having the best paper. But, this year, everyone agreed immediately that the winner should be the group of doctors led by Dr Rohlmann.”


Rohlmann et al’s study “Loads on a spinal implant measured in vivo during whole-body vibration” (Eur Spine J 2010: 19: 1129–35) assessed the impact of whole-body vibration in four patients who had undergone vertebral body replacement. To assess the effect of vibration on the implant, investigators used a modified version of Synthes’ Synex implant. Six load sensors and a telemetry unit were integrated into the implant to measure the impact of the load forces applied to the implant.


Patients sat on a driver’s seat fixed to a hexapod and were studied in three postures: sitting freely, leaning against a vertical backrest, and leaning against a backrest declined by an angle of 25 degrees. Presenting the data at Eurospine, Rohlmann said the study had found that vibration exposure when sitting freely may lead to implant loads that are nearly double that of implant loads that occur when sitting against a back rest. He added that the implant loads that occur while standing during whole-body vibration exposure (eg, on a bus) are probably similar to those seen with sitting freely. He concluded: “Driving a car or using public transportation leads to lower implant loads than standing when the back leans against a backrest in a sitting position and can therefore be allowed shortly after surgery. People with back problems should therefore travel in a sitting position with their back leaned against the backrest when using public transportation.”