"Improved quality of life is the key indicator for treatment success"

Professor of Orthopaedics and Traumatology Ilkka Helenius specialises in paediatric scoliosis and congenital limb deficiencies.

What are your research topics?

I am a professor of orthopaedics and traumatology, and I study diseases of the musculoskeletal system as well as injuries caused by accidents.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Among our research subjects are antenatal risk factors associated with congenital limb deficiencies or malformations of the spine in children. Congenital limb deficiencies are difficult to repair by any means, which is why their prevention is critical. Epidemiological studies have shown, for example, that some of the drugs consumed in the first trimester appear to increase the risk of limb deficiencies. This is why drug therapies must always be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Another central research topic for me is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, a condition diagnosed in 5% of all children. The prevalence of scoliosis requiring treatment is 0.2%. The long-term prognosis of children whose scoliosis is treated appropriately is good, but spinal fusion surgery, the current standard of care, makes the spine stiffer.

My research group aims to investigate whether it would be possible to replace some fusion surgeries with endoscopic operations where the longitudinal growth of the spine is utilised. The goal is to further improve the quality of life and the functioning of the back of children suffering from scoliosis.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Surgical treatment methods in orthopaedics and traumatology are advancing rapidly. Still, improved quality of life, as perceived by the patient, is the key treatment outcome. That is why it is important to make patients’ personal assessment of their health the primary endpoint in studies comparing different forms of treatment.

Ilkka Helenius is the professor of orthopaedics and traumatology at the Faculty of Medicine.

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