Determining the sagittal dimensions of the canal of the cervical spine. The reliability of ratios of anatomical measurements

J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1999 Jan;81(1):110-2. doi: 10.1302/0301-620x.81b1.9001.


The ratio of the sagittal diameter of the cervical canal to the corresponding diameter of the vertebral body has been described as a reliable means for assessing stenosis of the canal and detecting those at risk of cervical neuropraxia. The use of ratio techniques has the advantage of avoiding variation in magnification when direct measurements are made from plain radiographs. We examined the reliability of this method using plain lateral radiographs of unknown magnification and CT scans. We also assessed other possible ratios of anatomical measurements as a guide to the diameter of the canal. Our findings showed a poor correlation between the true diameter of the canal and the ratio of its sagittal diameter to that of the vertebral body. No other more reliable ratio was identified. The variability in anatomical morphology means that the use of ratios from anatomical measurements within the cervical spine is not reliable in determining the true diameter of the cervical canal.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Canal / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Canal / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Stenosis / diagnosis