Background: Spinal stiffness assessment has the potential to become an important clinical measure. Various spinal stiffness-testing devices are available to help researchers objectively evaluate the spine and patient complaints. One of these is VerteTrack, a device capable of measuring posteroanterior displacement values over an entire spinal region. This study aimed to develop a best-practice protocol for evaluating spinal stiffness in human participants using VerteTrack.
Methods: Twenty-five individuals with research experience in measuring spinal stiffness, or who were trained in spinal stiffness measurement using the VerteTrack device, were invited to participate in this 3-Round Delphi study. Answers to open-ended questions in Round 1 were thematically analyzed and translated into statements about VerteTrack operation for spinal stiffness measurements. Participants then rated their level of agreement with these statements using a 5-point Likert scale in Rounds 2 and 3. A descriptive statistical analysis was performed. Consensus was achieved when at least 70% of the participants either strongly agreed, agreed, (or strongly disagreed, disagreed) to include a statement in the final protocol.
Results: Twenty participants completed Round 1 (80%). All these participants completed Rounds 2 and 3. In total, the pre-defined consensus threshold was reached for 67.2% (123/183) of statements after three rounds of surveys. From this, a best-practice protocol was created.
Conclusions: Using a Delphi approach, a consensus-based protocol for measuring spinal stiffness using the VerteTrack was developed. This standard protocol will help to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and safety of spinal stiffness measurements, facilitate the training of new operators, increase consistency of these measurements in multicenter studies, and provide the synergy and potential for data comparison between spine studies internationally. Although specific to VerteTrack, the resulting standard protocol could be modified for use with other devices designed to collect spinal stiffness measures.
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- Spinal stiffness
- Mechanical instruments
- Spinal pain