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An ongoing study performed by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, New York University, and Northwestern Medicine is using Fitbit trackers to better predict recovery time for patients who undergo spine surgery.

Fitbit’s will be used to capture personal data on a patient’s steps and activity levels four weeks before surgery, and six months afterward.

Zachary Smith, an M.D. assistant professor of neurological surgery at Northwestern said, “An activity monitor allows us to have an objective, numerically exact and continuous measure of activity. This can show exactly how much function a patient has regained and, critically, when and if it occurs during the recovery period.” Smith adds, “This may allow us to predict when a patient will be back to 50 percent activity, 100 percent activity, or even 200 percent activity in the future.”

So far the study shows that almost all patients go through a four to a six-week period where their activity is decreased. Just a month out from many surgeries, patients get back to their pre-operative level.

Currently, the study focuses on minimally invasive spine surgeries for degenerative disease and deformity like scoliosis. Smith plans to apply the Fitbit trackers to all spine operations in the future.

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