The prevalence of intraspinal anomalies in infantile and juvenile patients with "presumed idiopathic" scoliosis: a MRI-based analysis of 504 patients

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2016 Apr 27:17:189. doi: 10.1186/s12891-016-1026-7.


Background: Though several studies have reported the incidence of intraspinal neural axis abnormalities in infantile and juvenile "presumed idiopathic" scoliosis, there has been a varying prevalence ranging from 11.1 to 26.0% based on a limited sample size. Therefore, such inconclusive findings have resulted in some questions on the MRI-associated role in the management of these patients. We aimed to investigate the prevalence and distribution of intraspinal anomalies in the infantile and juvenile patients with "presumed idiopathic" scoliosis and to explore the radiographic and clinical indicators with large sample size.

Methods: A total of 504 infantile and juvenile patients diagnosed with "presumed idiopathic" scoliosis were examined for potentially-existing neural axis abnormalities by MRI. Patients were grouped into two cohorts according to the presence of neural axis abnormalities. Radiographic parameters including curve magnitude, curve pattern, location of apex, degree of thoracic kyphosis, and span of curve were recorded and compared between the two groups. The prevalence of the neural abnormalities between the infantile-age group and juvenile-age group was also compared. The student t test was used to evaluate the differences of continuous variables and the chi-square test was used to evaluate the difference of categorical variables. Fisher exact test was applied to detect the difference of the rate of intraspinal anomalies between the "infantile idiopathic scoliosis" and "juvenile idiopathic scoliosis" group.

Results: Involving the spinal cord, 94 patients (18.7%) were found to have a neural abnormality: Arnold-Chiari malformation alone in 43 patients, Arnold-Chiari malformation combined with syringomyelia in 18 patients, isolated syringomyelia in 13 patients, diastematomyelia in six patients, tethered cord combined with diastematomyelia in six patients, tethered cord alone in four patients, and other uncommon intraspinal abnormalities in the remaining four patients. Totally Arnold-Chiari malformation with or without syringomyelia accounted for 64.8% (61/94) among all these abnormalities. Male gender, left thoracic curve and right lumbar curve were found to be significantly associated with the presence of neural axis abnormalities on MRI.

Conclusions: The incidence of neural axis abnormalities in the presumed IIS and JIS was 18.7%. Thus a routine MRI evaluation appears warranted for those "presumed idiopathic" scoliosis patients if aged less than 10 years, being male or having left thoracic or right lumbar curve.

Keywords: Infantile idiopathic scoliosis; Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis; Magnetic resonance imaging evaluation; Neural axis abnormalities; Prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neural Tube Defects / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neural Tube Defects / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Scoliosis / epidemiology
  • Syringomyelia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Syringomyelia / epidemiology

Supplementary concepts

  • Syringomyelia, Isolated