Interpretation of Spinal Radiographic Parameters in Patients With Transitional Lumbosacral Vertebrae

Spine Deform. Sep-Oct 2018;6(5):587-592. doi: 10.1016/j.jspd.2018.01.004.


Study design: Retrospective radiographic review.

Objectives: To understand the effect of variability in sacral endplate selection in transitional lumbosacral vertebrae (TLSV) and its impact on pelvic, regional, and global spinal alignment parameters.

Background: TLSV can have the characteristics of both lumbar and sacral vertebrae. Difficulties in identification of the S1 endplate may come from nomenclature, number of lumbar vertebrae, sacra, and morphology and may influence the interpretation and consistency of spinal alignment parameters.

Methods: Patients with TLSV were identified and radiographic measurements including pelvic incidence (PI), pelvic tilt (PT), sacral slope (SS), lumbar lordosis (LL), sagittal vertical axis (SVA), T1-pelvic angle (TPA), pelvic incidence-lumbar lordosis (PI-LL) mismatch, thoracic kyphosis (TK), and spinal inclination (T1SPi) were obtained. Radiographic measurements were performed twice with the sacral endplate at the cephalad and caudal options. Paired t tests assessed the difference between different selection groups.

Results: Of 1,869 patients, 70 (3.7%) were found to have TLSV on radiographic imaging. Fifty-eight (82.9%) had lumbarized sacral segments whereas 12 (17.1%) had sacralized lumbar segments. T1-SPi (mean: -1.77°) and TK (mean: 34.86°) did not vary from altering sacral endplate selection. Selection of the caudal TLSV as the sacral endplate resulted in an increase in all pelvic parameters (PI: 66.8° vs. 44.3°, PT: 25.1° vs. 12.7°, and SS: 41.6° vs. 31.6°), regional lumbar parameters (LL: -54.1° vs. 44.0°, PI-LL: 12.7° vs. 0.3°), and global parameters (SVA: 46.1 mm vs. 28.3 mm, TPA: 23.3° vs. 10.8°) as compared to selecting the cephalad TLSV. All mean differences between radiographic parameters were found to be statistically significant (p < .001).

Conclusions: Variation in sacral endplate selection in TLSV significantly affects spinal alignment parameter measurements. A standardized method for measuring TLSV is needed to reduce measurement error and ultimately allow more accurate understanding of alignment targets in patients with TLSV.

Level of evidence: Level III.

Keywords: Alignment; Sagittal; Spinal deformity; Transitional vertebra.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvis / diagnostic imaging
  • Posture
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Curvatures / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Curvatures / epidemiology*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*