How a Scoliosis Brace is Made

This week, I want to show you, step-by-step, how a brace is made, using our recent experience at the National Scoliosis Center (NSC).  Not all braces are made this way, but, in my opinion, the best ones are! 🙂  And, it makes the experience much more fun for the children when they can take part in making their own brace!

First, detailed measurements are taken of the patient, including a full digital scan of the torso.

Measuring, measuring…by the way, that is NOT an EmBraced In Comfort tee – But, my picky patient changed into one, though, as soon as he could 🙂
Measuring rotational angle
Scanning the body with a scanning “gun”
It’s fun to see your body appear on-screen!

Next, the patient picks out a pattern from many exciting choices…

Picking out a pattern. Fun!

Then, the plastic is inserted into the oven and the tissue with the pattern is adhered…

The plastic is hot and ready to come out of the oven
Preparing to place the tissue on the hot plastic
Pressing the pattern onto the hot plastic
Peeling the color application sheet from the hot plastic

Then, Luke and his associate, Michael, use a foam replica of the patient’s body (which was carved on a digital machine, using the digital scan they obtained earlier), and they lay the hot plastic on it. They work quickly to trim away the areas they will not need.

A foam replica of the torso is created
Laying the plastic on the mold
Luke is always willing to do what it takes to make a great brace – even laying on the floor to complete a task!
It takes two to trim the scrap off while the plastic is still hot. They work so well together!

Then, there’s this…

Playing with some hot plastic scraps

Back to business now…Once the plastic cools, Luke tries it on the patient and makes marks where he intends to trim…

Trying the brace on for first fitting
Honing the details

Then, he uses a special trimming machine to cut the plastic off at his markings…

Trimming edges along the cut lines

Next come the rivets for the straps…

Inserting rivets
Pressing the rivets into place

Then, Luke spends a lot of time smoothing the edges (not pictured)

And, more fittings and more fine-tuning…

Using a heat gun to work on uncomfortable parts
Using a handheld torch to soften some “pokey” parts

Finally, they get an in-brace X-ray in the very high-tech and rare EOS machine, which gives wonderful, 3-D images with extremely low radiation levels.  Very few facilities in the USA have an EOS machine, but National Scoliosis Center makes a point to have the healthiest and best technology for the patient…

EOS x-ray machine! State of the art – nothing but the best at NSC!
The Left side is the in-brace EOS image, the right side is the pre-brace, regular x-ray image

In our case, even though we got great correction in-brace, Luke wanted to further hone under the right shoulder to help relax the right shoulder and bring it down to a more symmetrical level.

After the brace was finished, we went home to spend the night in it and then returned to the National Scoliosis Center in the morning to make sure that it was fitting just right!  Luke and his team can get your patient into a custom-fit brace in just under 2 days!!  Wow!

Although we stay with family when we visit the NSC, they do have excellent group rates at a nearby hotel AND are just blocks from a Metro station.  My son got measured for his brace first thing in the morning, then he and I hopped a train into DC, spent a few hours wandering around the city, then headed back and helped Luke create the brace – all in one day!  You can combine a trip to the NSC with some wonderful opportunities to explore our Nation’s Capital.

I tell parents over and over – you will not be disappointed with your results from NSC.  I will be sure to keep you all updated on my son’s results as we progress into the 6 month mark.



Bracing at the National Scoliosis Center

This week starts a two-part blog series on my recent trip with my son to visit the National Scoliosis Center in Fairfax, VA.  I’ve written several articles on the work of the talented Orthotist Luke Stikeleather, which you can read HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.  However, this was our first visit in a few years, and our first ever visit to his new clinic.

Vaughn and Luke at the National Scoliosis Center


Luke creates a type of brace called the Rigo-Cheneau TLSO.  Between my son and daughter, we’ve probably had him make 7-8 different braces, and we’ve never once been disappointed.  I have always described him as a blend of Orthotist and artist, fitting each patient meticulously.  The other benefit is that he makes the braces in-house (and sometimes lets the kids help!), so his turnaround time is between 2-3 days.  This makes it simple for families (like us), who are coming from out of town.  I will have more on the actual process of making a brace in next week’s article.

The first time my son went into one of Luke’s braces (several years ago), he was at a 25 degree curve.  Luke recommended that he brace full time for a year, and, after that year, my son’s curve was decreased to 11 degrees. We then had him make another brace, which my son wore only at night for another year.  After that, his curves stayed put for over three years, until he had his growth spurt this year. Now he is back to 25 degrees and ready for another year of nighttime bracing.  We are very hopeful that he will have the same results this time as he did last time.

When we started planning our trip to Virginia, my son was not very happy about it.  But, we were both looking forward to seeing Luke again.  This time, I decided that I was too tired and busy to make the long drive by myself, so we cashed in some frequent flier miles and decided to fly to the area.  My Aunt and Uncle live about 20 miles from National Scoliosis Center, so we usually stay with them while we are in town.  We decided to fly out a few days early and do some visiting with family, because I wanted to work in some fun time.  I asked my son what he wanted to do on the trip, as well as where in DC he might want to visit, but he was only interested in Pokemon Hunting (Playing Pokemon Go).  Since it was HIS trip, Pokemon hunting is what we did!  He had his most successful days ever, including finding a nest of Growliths right at the Washington Monument!

Vaughn hunting Pokemon by the Washington Monument – we were blown away (literally AND figuratively….brrrr!!)

All in all, we had a great trip, and he is adjusting to his brace nicely.  It usually takes 1-2 weeks for the soreness to subside, so he is still feeling a little achy.  I would compare it to when a child first gets teeth braces.  They are annoying and sore for a few weeks, but then they get used to it.  They really do get used to it quickly!  Emotionally, it is different for my son to process the change, since he was 9 the last time he wore a brace and now he is nearly 13.  Everything is harder when you are 13.  But, he’s working through it and doing a wonderful job.  He grumbles when he has to put it on, but he has been very responsible about his 12 hours in the brace every day.  And, I told him that he better not complain around his sister, since she had to wear a brace full time for many more years than he has had to.  It’s all about perspective.  Yes, we are disappointed that he had to go back into a brace, but very grateful that, through wonderful bracing and diligence on my son’s part, that his curve is still very low and manageable.  And, we are so very grateful that someone like Luke Stikeleather is part of our medical team, a man full of compassion, kindness, and who is on a true mission to help Scoliosis patients. You will not be disappointed if you also choose to add the National Scoliosis Center to your medical team.

Preliminary results – pre-brace on the right and in-brace on the left – excellent correction.  Note: more brace tweaking was done AFTER this x-ray to help bring the right shoulder down and create even more correction.