Multisurgeon assessment of surgical decision-making in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: curve classification, operative approach, and fusion levels

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2001 Nov 1;26(21):2347-53. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200111010-00011.


Study design: A multisurgeon assessment of curve classification, selection of operative approach, and fusion levels via a case study presentation.

Objectives: To evaluate the ability of a group of scoliosis surgeons, not involved in the development of a new classification system, to accurately choose the corresponding curve classification of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) cases and to evaluate the variability in the selection of operative approaches and both proximal and distal fusion levels in accordance with the new classification system in operative adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

Summary of background data: Recent evaluations using the King method for classifying AIS has shown poor intraobserver and interobserver reliability. A new, comprehensive classification system of AIS has been developed, but the result of a scoliosis surgeon's ability to apply the objective classification is unknown. In the surgical treatment of AIS, there are three choices for the operative approach (anterior, posterior, or both) and multiple choices for the selection of fusion levels.

Methods: During an AIS roundtable discussion at a spinal surgery meeting, 28 scoliosis surgeons were presented seven cases of operative AIS via good quality slides. Standard preoperative radiographs and clinical photographs were presented, and the reviewers were asked to classify the cases by a new classification system, choose their preferred surgical approach, and classify both proximal and distal fusion levels.

Results: For the seven cases presented, 84% of the curve types, 86% of lumbar modifiers, and 90% of sagittal thoracic modifiers were classified by the reviewers as described in the new classification. The case study found widely variable operative approaches and fusion levels chosen by the reviewers. There was an average of five different proximal (range, 4-8) and four different distal (range, 3-5) fusion levels chosen by the reviewers for each case.

Conclusions: This case study assessment found a relatively high rate (84-90%) of agreement in curve classification of the individual components of a new classification system of AIS. This suggests the ability of a group of scoliosis surgeons to identify the specific criteria necessary for this new classification system of AIS. In addition, the high variability in selection of both operative approach and fusion levels confirms the current lack of standardized treatment paradigms. This further reinforces the need for a method to critically and objectively evaluate these variable treatments to determine the "best" radiographic and clinical results.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case Management*
  • Decision Making, Organizational*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Radiography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Scoliosis / classification
  • Scoliosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Scoliosis / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery*