Thoracic Idiopathic Scoliosis Severity Is Highly Correlated with 3D Measures of Thoracic Kyphosis

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2017 Jun 7;99(11):e54. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.16.01324.


Background: Loss of thoracic kyphosis has been associated with thoracic idiopathic scoliosis. Modern 3-dimensional (3D) imaging systems allow more accurate characterization of the scoliotic deformity than traditional radiographs. In this study, we utilized 3D calculations to characterize the association between increasing scoliosis severity and changes in the sagittal and axial planes.

Methods: Patients evaluated in a scoliosis clinic and determined to have either a normal spine or idiopathic scoliosis were included in the analysis. All underwent upright, biplanar radiography with 3D reconstructions. Two-dimensional (2D) measurements of the magnitude of the thoracic major curve and the thoracic kyphosis were recorded. Image processing and MATLAB analysis were utilized to produce a 3D calculation of thoracic kyphosis and apical vertebral axial rotation. Regression analysis was performed to determine the correlation of 2D kyphosis, 3D kyphosis, and apical axial rotation with the magnitude of the thoracic major curve.

Results: The 442 patients for whom 2D and 3D data were collected had a main thoracic curve magnitude ranging from 1° to 118°. Linear regression analysis of the 2D and 3D T5-T12 kyphosis versus main thoracic curve magnitude yielded significant models (p < 0.05). The 2D model had a minimally negative slope (-0.07), a small R value (0.02), and a poor correlation coefficient (-0.14). In contrast, the 3D model had a strongly negative slope (-0.54), a high R value (0.56), and a strong correlation coefficient (-0.75). Curve magnitude also had a strong correlation with loss of 3D T1-T12 kyphosis and increasing apical axial rotation.

Conclusions: Segmentally calculated 3D thoracic kyphosis had a strongly negative correlation with the magnitude of the main thoracic curve. With near uniformity, 3D thoracic kyphosis progressively decreased as scoliosis magnitude increased, at a rate of more than half the increase in the main thoracic curve magnitude. Analysis confirmed a surprisingly strong correlation between scoliosis severity and loss of 3D kyphosis that was absent in the 2D analysis. A similarly strong correlation between curve magnitude and apical axial rotation was evident. These findings lend further credence to the concept that scoliosis progresses in the coronal, sagittal, and axial planes simultaneously.

Clinical relevance: The findings of this study suggest that 3D assessment is critical for adequate characterization of the multiplanar deformity of idiopathic scoliosis and deformity in the sagittal plane is linked to deformity in the coronal plane. Increasing severity of coronal plane curvature is associated with a progressive loss of thoracic kyphosis that should be anticipated so that the appropriate intraoperative techniques for correction of idiopathic scoliosis can be applied in all 3 planes.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Kyphosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Kyphosis / etiology
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / complications
  • Scoliosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*