This final week of the immersion term was extremely busy to say the least. Research-wise, I ran some preliminary statistical tests on the data I had collected, as well as learned how to measure Cobb angles from patient MRI scans. Cobb angles are the radiographic measurement of scoliosis in the spine and one of the success criterion for this project will be long term lowering of this angle of scoliosis with the XLIF surgery, in addition to lowering of pain. Although I was unable to complete all the measurements, I was able to perform some and leave notes on the scans showing how I found those angles for other researchers using the files. I also met with Dr. Christoph Hofstetter, a research fellow at NYP who is interested in doing some work with Dr. Hartl. During our meeting, he taught me a lot about the types of other data we would need to find in the patient records in order to write a good abstract and eventually, a clinical paper. As the immersion term is over, I showed Dr. Hofstetter how to use my database and listed a number of patients he might want to call for follow ups to add to the study. He will be taking over the research project, and will hopefully be able to expand the sample size using my suggestions to write an abstract for SMISS. I will keep in contact with Dr. Hartl and Dr. Hofstetter in case our findings lead to conference proceedings or publication.
I wrapped up my time with Dr. Doty by cataloguing some histology by cut, stain, and spinal structure. I became very familiar with how a vertebrae looks under various types of staining as opposed to how a soft tissue, such as the intervertebral disc would look. It was interesting to learn what types of you staining you might want to use when evaluating different tissues in the body. We were unable to schedule another MRI class, but the workbooks we recieved in addition to the previous training more than made up for it.
I ended the week much the same way as I started the Immersion term: watching surgery and seeing patients. I observed a L5-S1 spinal fusion with the use of a special technology developed by SpineWave. Dr. Hartl used the StaXX XD expandable device to aid in restoring disc space height after the discectomy. This system allows for controlled distraction of the disc space in 1 mm increments via a simple ratcheting device. Additionally, this system is minimally invasive. After the device was implanted, rods and screws were then used to correct scoliosis in the spine.
In just this short immersion term, I have learn much about the in-depth anatomy of the spine, breadth of spinal traumas that extend past the scope of my research project, and have truly gained insight into how my research at Cornell can translate to a beneficial clinical result. I can honestly say that this experience has helped to reshape my thinking about my Ph.D thesis, and I hope for continued collaboration with Dr. Hartl throughout my tenure at Cornell.