Study design: The axial length of the vertebral canal and the anterior aspect of the vertebrae were measured in 36 skeletons, 15 with probable idiopathic scoliosis.
Objectives: To compare the discrepancy in length of the vertebral canal and the anterior spinal column in skeletons having probable idiopathic scoliosis with the degree of deformity.
Summary and background data: In idiopathic scoliosis, the vertebral bodies rotate toward the convexity of the curve, whereas the vertebral canal tends to retain a midline position. The vertebral canal therefore will be relatively short. The degree of shortening has not been described previously, nor its relation with the degree of deformity.
Methods: The axial length of the vertebral canal and the anterior aspect of the vertebral bodies were measured in 36 skeletons: 8 with normal spines, 13 with kyphosis, and 15 with probable idiopathic scoliosis. The relative shortening in the scoliotic spines was correlated with the Cobb angle and the degree of rotation.
Results: No significant difference in length was found between the vertebral canal and the vertebral column in the normal spines. The kyphotic spines had canals significantly longer than the vertebral length (P<0.025). All but one of the scoliotic spines had short vertebral canals (P<0.01). The degree of discrepancy was related to the Cobb angle (r = -0.50; P< 0.05), and particularly to the degree of rotation (r = -0.88; P< 0.001).
Conclusions: The findings have surgical and etiologic implications. The results are consistent with a conceivable hypothesis that in some patients with idiopathic scoliosis, there may be impaired growth in the length of the spinal cord, the posterior elements are tethered, and as the vertebral bodies continue to grow, they become lordotic and then rotate.