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Current Research/Projects

Recovery from Whiplash Injury

Dr. Inae Gadotti's research has important healthcare implications, particularly in terms of reducing disability and costs related to chronic neck pain due to motor vehicle crash-related whiplash that also will facilitate the early return to safe driving.

In the research, a comprehensive functional evaluation of subjects with chronic neck pain following whiplash injury will be performed by using a safe and controlled environment, a driving simulator. In collaboration with the Lehman Center for Transportation Research (LCTR) and with the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences (NWCNHS) Occupational Therapy Department, Gadotti will be able to use the FIU Driving Simulator Laboratory driving simulator to conduct her research.

The influence of potential physical, psychological and cognitive limitations in the context of driving will be evaluated. In the second phase of the study, the driving simulator will be used as part of the rehabilitation process of those patients with chronic neck pain after whiplash. In the intervention group, simulated driving tasks will be completed in addition to the conservative treatment. The outcomes will be compared to a control group of patients who will undergo conservative treatment only.

The research hypothesis is that the inclusion of simulated driving tasks will improve the health and driving ability outcomes of patients when compared to conservative treatment alone.

A pilot of this project is being conducted at the NWCNHS CARE Unit (Center for Advanced Rehabilitation/Research and Education). In this pilot, eye and head movements of healthy subjects are measured during target tracking tasks. The tasks reproduce eye and head movements required while driving. A 9-Camera Qualisys motion analysis system (QTM-Qualisys Track Manager, Version 2.5; Qualisys Inc.; Gothenburg Sweden) is used to capture head movement, and the ASL mobile eye XG tracking system (Applied Science laboratory, Bedford MA, USA) is used to capture eye movement. Surface electromyography also is being used to detect muscle activity of SCM muscle bilaterally during the head movement.

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Total Knee Replacement

Since coming to Florida International University in 2004, Dr. Mark Rossi has continued his research agenda that began during his doctoral training at Texas Woman’s University. He has maintained an excellent collaborative research relationship with the Orthopedic Research Institute at Mercy Hospital in Miami, Florida, under the direction of Carlos Lavernia, MD, and the Orthopedic Institute at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, under the direction of Martin Roche, MD and Thomas Eberle, DPT.

At the Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute, research by Dr. Roche and Dr. Eberle is directed at those individuals who have knee joint osteoarthritis and are awaiting knee replacement (either total unilateral, bilateral or unicompartmental). The research explores the relationship between physical performance and self-reported measures of function and pain before surgery and within the first week to ten days after knee replacement surgery. The focus is on understanding load-bearing patterns and functional recovery after different types of surgical procedures. The research is beginning to expand to include new research team made up of five individuals at The Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute.

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Sensor Assisted Surgery for Knee Joint Replacement

Dr. Mark Rossi and Dr. Denis Brunt are collaborating on a research initiative that addresses safety issues after having knee replacement surgery titled “Sensor Assisted Surgery: The relationship to perceived and direct measures of performance before and after knee joint replacement.”

Typically, the surgeon will “balance” the knee using mechanical jigs. The surgeon will attempt to have the knee balanced in such a way that contact forces are distributed equally across the tibial plate. Lack of medial-lateral symmetry may lead to instability, poor function and wear.

A new technology has emerged in which soft tissue balancing can be completed through the use of sensors and a computer. The sensors wirelessly transmit key information to a graphic display, enabling the surgeon to visualize and quantify joint balance and load distribution throughout a full range of motion. With this evidence, surgeons can make informed adjustments to the soft tissues to optimize implant placement. They soon will initiate a study to determine if knee balancing through the use of computer and sensors compares favorably versus knees that are balanced using the traditional approach during the early recovery process.

In addition, Dr. Rossi and Dr. Brunt have begun collaboration with the Biomedical Engineering Department and soon will be collaborating with the Occupational Therapy Department and the FIU Driving Simulation Laboratory in the Lehman Center for Transportation Research. A preliminary study being prepared will be to evaluate the safety of driving after having a right knee replacement. Specifically, they will examine reaction time to braking and lower limb strength required to press on a brake pedal.

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Health Disparities After Knee Replacement Surgery

At the Orthopedic Institute at Mercy Hospital, research by the entire Orthopedic research team, led by Dr. Carlos Lavernia, is focused on perceived abilities and perceived well-being before and after surgery. The focus is on what factors (osteoarthritis severity, ethnicity, race, education, implant type and procedure) influence or predict outcomes months and years after joint replacement.

A majority (>80%) of individuals who have knee joint replacement at Mercy Hospital consider themselves Hispanic. The ongoing study involves assessing perceived abilities and physical performance before and two years after surgery, specifically evaluating load-bearing between limbs during squatting, a major component in activities of daily living. What is unique is that the research team is addressing physical function after knee replacement in a typically underserved population. Thus, the research team is beginning to address health disparities.

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Pedestrian Safety

The goal of Dr. Edgar Vieira’s and Dr. Denis Brunt’s joint project is to compare the gait characteristics of younger and older adults with and without history of previous falls during normal walking and during simulated street crossing conditions.

Twenty younger adults (20-30 years old), 20 older adults (65+ years old) who did not fall during the previous 12 months, and 20 older adults who did fall during the previous 12 months will participate in the study. Data will be collected at the SW Focal Point Senior Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The information gathered will help determine risk factors and differences between the groups of participants.

A PhD student from Brazil was fully funded to come to FIU and work with Dr. Vieira and Dr. Brunt on this project for seven months. The results will help design falls prevention strategies to be tested in a future project that will be submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for funding.

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Evaluating WMSD symptoms among PTs

The prevalence, severity, and characteristics of WMSD – Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders – among physical therapists (PTs) are not known. In addition, the tasks and specialties that are related with WMSD affecting different body parts among PTs have not been established. Determining these factors is the first step to reduce WMSD in PTs. To that end, a survey of Florida PTs was issued to evaluate the prevalence, severity and characteristics of WMSD symptoms among therapists with different levels of experience, practicing in different specialty areas and settings.

Florida PTs were invited to complete an online self-administered survey created based on WMSD surveys previously conducted with PTs. The demographics and prevalence of WMSD symptoms among the respondents were calculated. Potential trends by age, gender, race, level of physical activity, experience level, specialty area, and practice settings were evaluated. The WMSD symptoms and their severity were categorized by body part.

Conducting this survey among Florida PTs may provide a better understanding of the WMSD issues in this occupational group. Knowing the extent and characteristics of this problem will permit better understanding, raise awareness and assist in the design of educational and prevention programs. This research received the Linda Crane Award from the Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA).

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