Pre- and post-operative sagittal balance in idiopathic scoliosis: a comparison over the ages of two cohorts of 132 adolescents and 52 adults

Pierre Roussouly, Hubert Labelle, Jihane Rouissi, Arnaud Bodin
European Spine Journal 2013, 22 Suppl 2: S203-15

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective study of a prospective clinical and radiological database of subjects with adolescent (AIS) and adult (AS) idiopathic scoliosis undergoing surgical correction by posterior approach.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the differences in sagittal alignment of the spine and pelvis in AIS and AS before surgery and changes after surgery in both populations. The relationship between the spine and pelvis highly influences the sagittal balance in adults and adolescents. However, the sagittal alignment of the spine and pelvis before and after surgery in idiopathic scoliosis, whatever the age, is poorly defined in the literature.

METHODS: Clinical and radiological data were extracted from a prospective database of 132 AIS patients and 52 AS before and at last follow-up after surgical correction. Sagittal parameters were evaluated on AP and lateral radiographs using a custom software: pelvic incidence (PI), sacral slope (SS), pelvic tilt (PT), lumbar lordosis (LL), thoracic kyphosis (TK), C7 Barrey's ratio, spino-sacral angle (SSA). A new algorithm of combination of balance parameters was proposed to characterize and compare the various pathological spino-pelvic settings. Based on PI subdivision in high (<55°) and low values (>55°), then on a range of PT indexed on PI giving the pelvis positioning (anteverted, normal or retroverted), the population was finally characterized by the C7 plumbline position with regard to the posterior edge of the sacrum and the center of the femoral heads, in balanced, slightly unbalanced and unbalanced. More specifically, the AIS study included the cervical shape alignment with cervical lordosis (CL) and sagittal thoracic profile assessment (hypo vs. normokyphotic). In AS, the study focused on thoraco-lumbar kyphosis (TLK) occurrence (LL length). Paired Student t tests were used for comparison (α = 0.02).

RESULTS: Pre-operatively, in AIS there was a prevalence of lower PI (57 %). Whatever the PI, PT remained anteverted or normal. Positioning of C7 was much more unbalanced, forward of the femoral heads (50 %), than in asymptomatic population (17 %). There was a notable loss and reversal of cervical lordosis in the majority of subjects, with an average cervical kyphosis measurement of 10 ± 18°. Thoracic kyphosis values were lower than average, while lumbar lordosis values were within normal limits. After surgery, in the entire group, a slight but significant increase of PT coupled to a decrease of SS and LL was noted, while no changes could be documented in thoracic kyphosis and cervical lordosis. However, when sub-classified according to thoracic hypo versus normokyphosis pre-op, there was a significant decrease of TK coupled to a decrease of LL and CL in the normokyphotic group, while TK and CL were improved in the hypokyphotic group. A significant number of patients improved their global balance. Changes in sagittal profile between Lenke curve types were minimal. In AS there were significant differences between low and high PI populations. Severity of unbalance increased in high PI population with association of retroverted pelvis and forward unbalance. In lower PI, increasing PT was generally sufficient to balance the patients. The occurrence of TLK was strongly increased in the entire population and became the rule in those with lower PI (76 %). Post-operatively, in those with high PI, PT did not change while global balance improved slightly. The strategy of correction in higher PI was to maintain TLK. In those with low PI, PT improved while C7 did not change. Correction of TLK was obtained in eight cases.

CONCLUSIONS: A decrease of cervical lordosis and thoracic kyphosis is commonly associated with AIS. The anterior unbalance frequently found in AIS does not seem to have the same significance of severity as in AS. In AIS PI does not change the balance criterions, while in AS the severity of unbalance is increased with higher PI. TLK seems to be a way of worsening the balance in elderly, mainly in lumbar and thoraco-lumbar scoliosis with low PI. Surgical correction of the thoracic and lumbar spine in AIS induces significant changes in the sagittal spino-pelvic profile. Changes in the cervical sagittal profile vary according to the pre-op sagittal profile of the thoracic kyphosis. Cervical lordosis and thoracic kyphosis are improved by surgical correction in subjects with pre-operative hypokyphosis, but a reverse effect is noted in those with normal pre-operative kyphosis. The clinical significance of these changes in sagittal shape remains to be determined. In AS, it appears easier to restore a good balance in the lower PI population than in those with less pre-operative unbalance.

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