HISTORY OF OUR LAB

History Photos       In 1980 Dr. Avinash Patwardhan established the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics lab after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Oklahoma State University. He joined the faculty of Loyola University Chicago as Assistant Professor of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation and Director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory in the Rehabilitation Research and Development Center at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, and then was promoted to Full Professor with Tenure and Chief, Section of Research within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine (LUSSM) in 1992.

       Dr. Patwardhan directed the development of the Hines/Loyola Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory from its inception in 1980 to its current state as an internationally recognized laboratory for research and education in musculoskeletal biomechanics. The laboratory is staffed by six full-time biomedical engineers and two full-time research associates (MD-PhD). The laboratory has state-of-the-art facilities for conducting research studies in musculoskeletal biomechanics, with special emphasis on spinal disorders. The laboratory provides training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate engineering students, medical students, and residents in orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, podiatric medicine and orthotics.

       Over the last 30 years, Dr. Patwardhan and the laboratory staff have made significant contributions in furthering our understanding of the etiology of spinal disorders as well as their treatment using spinal implants and spinal orthoses through the use of experimental and mathematical modeling techniques.

       We have developed an entirely new experimental approach for assessing the stability of the lumbar, thoracolumbar, and cervical spines. The “Follower Load” method of spine biomechanical testing is the first to take a complete set of single functional spine units (vertebral body-disc-vertebral body) and combine them into a representative ex vivo model of the in vivo spine. This is accomplished by allowing physiologic loads to be applied to the ex vivo model while simulating the balanced trunk and paraspinal muscles. Prior to this, spine implants, injuries and reconstructive procedures could only be studied in bench top experiments that lacked a true in vivo loading environment. The follower load method of spine biomechanical testing has now become a part of the standard testing methodology in all major spine laboratories in the United States and Europe. This work offers the clinician a laboratory method to evaluate injuries and reconstructive procedures in a way that mimics what he or she would observe in treating patients. As our understanding of both acute and degenerative conditions of the spine improved, surgical procedures have evolved from “reactionary” operations (e.g., spinal fusion) to the conception and development of functional preservation and restoration procedures such as laminoplasty and disc space arthroplasty. The follower load model allows researchers to evaluate the spine’s response, at the pathologic and adjacent levels, in an ex vivo model that simulates true in vivo loading conditions. This will allow the clinician to have a better understanding of the implications of the treatment and technologies as the care of spinal disorders evolves in the future. Furthermore, the studies conducted by Dr. Patwardhan’s group suggest a new hypothesis for the mechanism by which muscles provide stability to the spine in vivo. This has clinical implications as it suggests a role for muscle conditioning and physiotherapy in treating degenerative spine conditions.

       Dr. Patwardhan and the laboratory team have a very impressive record of productive scholarship, as evidenced by more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals including Spine, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Journal of Biomechanics, Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, and Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. These scientific journals are among the very best in his field of research with high impact factors; the review process is very rigorous and the acceptance criteria are very stringent. He has contributed 13 invited book chapters, made over 200 presentations at national and international scientific conferences, and presented over 40 invited seminars. The research outcomes have become an integral part of the teaching curriculum for residents in Orthopaedic Surgery at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, residents in Rehabilitation Medicine at Hines, and orthotics students in institutions such as the Northwestern University’s Prosthetics and Orthotics Center.

       Our laboratory has gained national and international recognition for contributions to the scientific knowledge base in the biomechanics of spinal disorders. The quality of his work and the significance of his research have been recognized in the form of several “best paper” awards including the prestigious Volvo Award for the work in low back pain research, awarded by the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine in 1982. In 2005 laboratory work on the biomechanics of total lumbar disc replacement using the Charité disc prosthesis received the Outstanding Paper Award in Surgical Sciences, awarded by the North American Spine Society.