Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biomedical Engineering



Research Advisor

Denis J. DiAngelo, Ph.D.


Richard J. Kasser, Ph.D. Derek M. Kelly, M.D. William M. Mihalko, M.D., Ph.D.


Thoracolumbar braces are commonly used to treat Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). Braces serve to reduce and prevent progression of the spinal curve by applying corrective forces. The magnitude and direction of these corrective forces applied by the brace to the spine remain unknown. Additionally the brace fitting process involves making alterations to the brace that affect its corrective force capacity. The objective was to design and validate an analog model of a mid-thoracic single curve scoliotic deformity for quantifying structural properties of the brace and the force response of the brace on the spine. This model was used to investigate the effects of strap-related brace design alterations. Additionally, the model was customized and demonstrated to be representative of a clinical case study.

A novel mechanically-equivalent analog model of the AIS condition was designed and developed to simulate up to 40 degrees of spinal correction. The linkage-based model was used in conjunction with a biorobotic testing platform to test a scoliosis brace. Measurements of the force components applied to the model and angular displacement of the linkage assembly were used to calculate the brace structural stiffness properties. The brace was tested using two types of straps (Velcro and buckle) applied in various configurations and compared to an unconstrained configuration and rigidly constrained configuration to demonstrate the capacity of the model to study brace design alterations.

Calculated stiffness was expressed as a resistive force relative to the angular change of the linkage system. Addition of either strap type significantly increased the stiffness values relative to the unconstrained configuration. An optimal brace radial stiffness was achieved with three Velcro straps, i.e., there was no significant stiffness gained by adding a fourth strap. For the case of the buckle straps, no significant stiffness gain occurred when more buckle straps were added.

Structural properties provide a means to compare bracing technology and better understand design features. The testing of design alterations, i.e. variable strap configurations, show a measureable difference in brace force response and structural properties between each configuration. Also, interpretation of the measured force components revealed that the brace applied inward and upward forces to the spine.

A novel scoliosis analog model and testing assembly were developed to provide first time measures of the forces applied to the spine by a thoracolumbar brace. In addition to quantifying brace structural properties, this test assembly could be used as a design and testing tool for scoliosis brace technology.





Thesis was embargoed for 6 months at the original publication time.