On January 8th, the 2017 National Science and Technology Award Conference was held in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, together with some other national leaders such as Zhang Gaoli and Wang Huning, attended the conference and conferred the awards to the winning scientists.
At this year's conference, the program of "Establishment and Application of Minimally Invasive Treatment System for Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures", conducted by the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University as the first signature unit, was conferred the Second Prize of the National Science and Technology Progress Award. Professor Yang Huiling, Director of the Department of Orthopedics of the Hospital and a Standing Committee Member of Chinese Orthopedic Association, accepted the award certificate which was conferred by President Xi in person. This is also the second time that the research team of orthopedics of the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow to have obtained this top-honored award in China.
Vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis is considered as the "hidden killer" of senior population; many patients would suffer from complications as a result of such fractures and it has been statistically demonstrated that if the fractures are not treated via surgery, the death rate could be as high as 49.4% for such patients within four years. As China is entering into an aging society, more than 1.81 million patients of this style would be added each year, and the number is estimated to reach around 50 million in 2020. Lead by Professor Yang, a team of about ten experts in orthopedics of Soochow's First Affiliated Hospital have been working on this thorny issue for 17 years to develop a new system of diagnosis and treatment.
In the year 2000, Professor Yang started to introduce a new minimally invasive technique for the treatment based on the findings of Professor Dong Tianhua and Professor Tang Tiansi. The new technique which can alleviate the pains effectively; most patients could stand up and walk the next day after the surgery. However, the operation is potentially dangerous as the vertebral column is surrounded by ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels; any slight inaccuracy during the surgery would result in paralysis or even death of the patients. Therefore, Yang and his fellows spent more than ten years to adjust and polish the techniques for the treatment; they incorporated new materials and tools and also introduced innovative surgical procedures that can avoid the potential danger of the operation.
The findings of their research have re-defined the treatment of the vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis. With the wide application of the new diagnostic and treating strategies, a large number of patients have been benefited including those who have given up treatment because of severe fractures, which has been highly appreciated and widely acknowledged both in China and abroad. On the basis of their research, Professor Yang and his team published the white book of Standardized Diagnosis and Treatment of Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fracture, which has been adopted as standards for OVCF treatment in several countries such as the US, the UK, Belgium, and Sweden. Professor Hansen A. Yuan, a globally reputed expert in spine surgery and also the former Executive Chair of the North American Spine Society, tags Yang's findings as "Suzhou Theory"; and as he states, "the 'Suzhou Theory' has made remarkable contributions to the development and promotion of the minimally invasive treatments for osteoporotic vertebral fractures".
According to Yang himself, it has been a long yet rewarding journey to win this top national award, "the achievement results from the hard work of generations of researchers in the team of orthopedics; it is a great honor as well as an acknowledgement; but the most important thing for me is that award can further promote the new treatment systems for osteoporotic vertebral fractures and enhance the public awareness of health, so as to benefit all the human beings".