Three-dimensional measurement of growth of ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament

J Neurosurg Spine. 2012 Mar;16(3):289-95. doi: 10.3171/2011.11.SPINE11502. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Object: Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) is a progressive disease that causes cervical myelopathy. Because 2D evaluation of ossification growth with plain lateral radiographs has limitations, the authors developed a unique technique to measure ossification progression and volume increase by using multidetector CT scanning.

Methods: The authors used serial thin-slice volume data obtained by multidetector CT scanning in 5 patients. The mean patient age was 63 years, and the mean follow-up duration was 3.1 years. First, a 3D model of OPLL was semiautomatically segmented at a specific threshold. Then, a preoperative model of OPLL was superimposed on a postoperative model using voxel-based registration of the vertebral bodies. Progression and volume increase were measured using a digital viewer that was developed by the authors. Progression was visualized using a color-coded contour on the surface of the OPLL model.

Results: All patients had progression of 0.5 mm or greater. The mean values concerning OPLL growth were as follows: maximum progression length, 4.7 mm; progression rate, 1.5 mm/year; volume increase, 1622 mm(3); volume expansion rate, 37%; and volume increase rate, 484 mm(3)/year. The accuracy of superimposition by voxel-based registration, defined as closeness to the true value, was less than 0.31 mm. For intraobserver reproducibility of the volume measurement, the mean intraclass correlation coefficient, root mean square error, and coefficient of variation were 0.987, 16.0 mm(3), and 1.7%, respectively.

Conclusions: Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament progresses even after surgery. Three-dimensional evaluation with the aid of CT scans is a useful and reliable method for assessing that growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ossification of Posterior Longitudinal Ligament / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ossification of Posterior Longitudinal Ligament / pathology
  • Ossification of Posterior Longitudinal Ligament / physiopathology
  • Ossification of Posterior Longitudinal Ligament / surgery
  • Recovery of Function
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*