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Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Institute

Orthopaedic Biomechanics Research Laboratory

Mission Statement

The mission of the Orthopaedic Biomechanics Research Laboratory is to:

  • Support the research of attending physicians
  • Assist in the education of residents and provide opportunities for residents to directly conduct research
  • Independently pursue focused research leading to external support
  • Publish meaningful research in journals relevant to orthopaedics
  • Present research at national and regional orthopaedic conferences by laboratory personnel, by attending physicians, by residents, or by fellows

Orthopaedic Research

Research is important to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. It is the lifeblood that allows our physicians to provide cutting-edge care to patients and remain at the forefront of new methods of diagnosing and treating diseases of the musculoskeletal system. The Division of Research is committed to advancing the specialty of orthopaedic surgery so patients receive care in an effective and safe manner.

It takes tremendous effort and many resources to conduct research. Often the initial idea for a project comes from one of the orthopaedic surgeons who sees a patient in the office or encounters a difficult situation in the operating room. The surgeon will then find others in the department or from other institutions around the country who share a similar interest in this problem. From there, a study group will form and perform an extensive review of the literature to determine if others have encountered or solved a similar problem. A decision is then made to perform a research project. For many clinically based projects, such as comparing two different surgical techniques, the hospital's Institutional Review Board, will require the team to provide an exhaustive analysis of the project to be sure there is good reason to do the research and that patients are treated safely. This may take from two months up to a year before final approval is granted. At the same time, the Orthopaedic Department has its own Research Council that meets regularly to review research projects and offer suggestions to the researchers about how to scientifically improve those projects.

After months of literature review and formulating the research question, the team is ready to begin collecting data. This may include reviewing charts of patients in a retrospective study, enrolling new patients who will be new to the study in a prospective study, working in the biomechanics lab on anatomy issues or finding better ways to perform a surgical procedure, or collaborating with other researchers in the Microbiology Laboratory and Center for Genomic Sciences to evaluate different aspects of managing orthopaedic infections. The data is collected over a few months to many years. Then the team writes a manuscript detailing its study, which is then published in leading orthopaedic journals.

This enormous effort is supported by funding. No research project can begin until the research team has secured the necessary financial support. This can come from a variety of sources, including patient donations, industry, private and public foundations and the government. Patient-directed donations are a crucial method of raising the needed funds for research. These donations come from patients for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to support the good work of an individual physician. Other times it is in gratitude for a good result from treatment for themselves or loved ones. Still other patients donate because they recognize the importance our research has in making our care safer and more effective.

The Division of Orthopaedic Research has three major parts. One component is clinical research, where our surgeons critically evaluate the results of their treatment or are trying to determine the best treatment for patients. A second arm of research is the Biomechanics Laboratory (headed by Mark Miller, PhD), where both MD and PhD researchers work together to investigate the mechanical properties of different materials and surgical techniques. As part of the Biomechanics Lab, we have surgical skills, anatomic dissection facilities and an animal lab. Finally, our world-renowned Microbiology Laboratory (headed by William Costerton, PhD) provides unparalleled skills in detecting orthopaedic infections.

Throughout our long and storied history, we have helped thousands of patients enjoy a higher quality of life. However, more work needs to be done to meet new challenges in the years ahead. In particular, we want to address the needs of the aging. As life expectancy grows longer, many more people will experience a variety of disabling and painful orthopaedic conditions, such as bone and joint injuries, as well as chronic musculoskeletal diseases. Our goal is to develop technologies and techniques that help future generations stay healthy and active, well into old age. If you can help our research efforts, patients now and in the future will thank you.

Laboratory

Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) recognizes that the hospital can improve the quality of health care through innovative research. The Biomechanics Laboratory, housed in 2,250 square feet on the 02 and 10th floor levels of AGH’s South Tower, provides opportunities for basic science research pertaining to relevant clinical problems. The laboratory space is divided into an office suite, a dissection room equipped with a freezer and a full complement of dissection instruments and supplies, a machining room, a tissue mechanics laboratory, a mechanics test laboratory, and a patient testing facility.

Additional hospital facilities for the study of basic science include the Pathology Laboratory and an animal research facility. The Pathology Laboratory is housed in 1,734 square feet for the study and examination of specimens. A seven-head microscope and five double-head microscopes, in addition to the full range of teaching slides, are available for teaching purposes. Pathologists are on staff and are available to the orthopaedic residents. Researchers may utilize the laboratory 24 hours a day. The animal research facility has extensive capabilities for applied and basic research, including surgical suites and care facilities where all levels of research can be conducted.

Residents and Fellows in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery are expected to participate in basic science and clinical research projects, either by collaborating with the attending staff and research scientists, or by pursuing their own original ideas. Each resident must participate in long-term research and present progress at monthly conferences.

Clinical

Allegheny General Hospital is an affiliate site of the Drexel University School of Medicine, located in Philadelphia. Scientists at AGH conduct studies in the following disciplines: Neurosciences, Human Oncology, Human Genetics, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research, Musculoskeletal and Trauma. Other initiatives in advanced technologies include Imaging and Telemedicine.

Located in the North Side section of Pittsburgh, Allegheny General annually admits more than 31,000 patients and logs nearly 450,000 outpatient visits. Nearly 900 physicians and more than 5,100 employees share the hospital's commitment to excellence in patient care, medical education and research. In conjunction with the hospital's desire to forge new frontiers in medical education, its leaders also recognize that, through innovative research, Allegheny General can improve the quality of health care. Research efforts continue today at the hospital. Interdisciplinary research centers address the major health areas of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, neurosciences, oncology and human genetics.

Animal

The ASRI Laboratory Animal Resource Facility (LARF) includes resources for both large and small animals. The LARF is directed daily by the facility manager and the consulting veterinary staff, with oversight provided by the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee). The large animal unit has dedicated space for support services including necropsy, treatment and surgical prep, feed prep, cage wash with separate storage for feed, bedding and cleaning products. Similar to the large animal unit, the rodent housing area has dedicated support space for autoclave, cage wash, necropsy with separate storage for feed, bedding and cleaning products. The research operating suite consists of two operating rooms. a catheterization laboratory, a clinical laboratory, a recovery room, locker rooms, surgical scrub and decontamination areas, surgical prep and storage space for surgical supplies and cleaning products. Office space and lounge/eating areas are available to support personnel in all areas.

Computer

The laboratory owns multiprocessor computers for use with simulation and large data bases. Current modeling and data analysis software includes Access, Ansys, Autocad, Adobe Photoshop, MATLAB, MIMICS, Scion Image, SigmaPlot, Statistica, Systat, SPSS, and Working Model. Computer time from the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center is also available. Additional computers are available for word processing and other office activities. Available publication software includes the Adobe and the Microsoft Office suites.

Office

The office suite on the 10th floor has a reception/secretarial area with a conference table and four offices. Standard office equipment (phone, FAX, copier) and Internet access are provided and maintained by Allegheny Singer Research Institute. The laboratory also has several networked printers, including two laser and one color inkjet printer.
 

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