Sanders stage 7b: Using the appearance of the ulnar physis improves decision-making for brace weaning in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis

Bone Joint J. 2021 Jan;103-B(1):141-147. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.103B1.BJJ-2020-1240.R1.


Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate whether including the stages of ulnar physeal closure in Sanders stage 7 aids in a more accurate assessment for brace weaning in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of patients who were weaned from their brace and reviewed between June 2016 and December 2018. Patients who weaned from their brace at Risser stage ≥ 4, had static standing height and arm span for at least six months, and were ≥ two years post-menarche were included. Skeletal maturity at weaning was assessed using Sanders staging with stage 7 subclassified into 7a, in which all phalangeal physes are fused and only the distal radial physis is open, with narrowing of the medial physeal plate of the distal ulna, and 7b, in which fusion of > 50% of the medial growth plate of distal ulna exists, as well as the distal radius and ulna (DRU) classification, an established skeletal maturity index which assesses skeletal maturation using finer stages of the distal radial and ulnar physes, from open to complete fusion. The grade of maturity at the time of weaning and any progression of the curve were analyzed using Fisher's exact test, with Cramer's V, and Goodman and Kruskal's tau.

Results: We studied a total of 179 patients with AIS, of whom 149 (83.2%) were female. Their mean age was 14.8 years (SD 1.1) and the mean Cobb angle was 34.6° (SD 7.7°) at the time of weaning. The mean follow-up was 3.4 years (SD 1.8). At six months after weaning, the rates of progression of the curve for patients weaning at Sanders stage 7a and 7b were 11.4% and 0%, respectively for those with curves of < 40°. Similarly, the rates of progression of the curve for those being weaned at ulnar grade 7 and 8 using the DRU classification were 13.5% and 0%, respectively. The use of Sanders stages 6, 7a, 7b, and 8 for the assessment of maturity at the time of weaning were strongly and significantly associated (Cramer's V 0.326; p = 0.016) with whether the curve progressed at six months after weaning. Weaning at Sanders stage 7 with subclassification allowed 10.6% reduction of error in predicting the progression of the curve.

Conclusion: The use of Sanders stages 7a and 7b allows the accurate assessment of skeletal maturity for guiding brace weaning in patients with AIS. Weaning at Sanders stage 7b, or at ulnar grade 8 with the DRU classification, is more appropriate as the curve did not progress in any patient with a curve of < 40° immediately post-weaning. Thus, reaching full fusion in both distal radial and ulnar physes (as at Sanders stage 8) is not necessary and this allows weaning from a brace to be initiated about nine months earlier. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(1):141-147.

Keywords: Brace weaning; Curve progression; DRU; Distal radius and ulna classification; Sanders classification; Sanders staging; Skeletal maturity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology
  • Age Determination by Skeleton*
  • Bone Development / physiology
  • Braces*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Growth Plate / diagnostic imaging
  • Growth Plate / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / therapy*
  • Ulna / diagnostic imaging
  • Ulna / growth & development*