Compensatory Spinopelvic Balance Over the Hip Axis and Better Reliability in Measuring Lordosis to the Pelvic Radius on Standing Lateral Radiographs of Adult Volunteers and Patients

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Study Design.Sagittal alignments, including lumbar lordosis and spinopelvic balance(measured from C7, S1, and hip axis reference points for the relative positions of the spine and sacropelvis over the hips), were studied on standing 36-in. lateral radiographs of adult volunteers (control subjects) and patients who had specific spinal disorders.Objectives.To determine the most reliable methods for measuring lumbopelvic lordosis and to define significant spinopelvic compensations for sagittal balance.Summary of Background Data.Measurements for standing sagittal balance, obtained using a C7 plumb line, and segmental angulations of the spinal vertebrae, including lordosis to the sacrum, have been reported. Absolute values, even for normative data, have had wide variation and limited clinical usefulness. Correlations of sagittal balance with the reported spinopelvic angulations (spinal vertebral and sacropelvic angulations) have not been well defined. In addition, determinates of balance (spinal and pelvic) have not been studied for reliability, and compensatory mechanisms for maintenance of balance have not been carefully evaluated. Better recognition of the correlations and more reliable methods to measure lordosis and balance and the spinopelvic compensations for its maintenance may be beneficial in treating patients who have spinal disorders.Methods.Measurements on standing 36-in. lateral radiographs were made for sagittal alignments in adult volunteers(n = 50) and in adult patients who had symptomatic degenerative lumbar disc disease(n = 50), low grade L5-S1 isthmic (lytic) spondylolisthesis (n = 30), and idiopathic or degenerative scoliosis (n = 30). All participants exhibited clinical compensation for balance. Data were analyzed for significant correlations within each group to determine compensatory correlations of spinopelvic balance with the other sagittal alignments. Intraobserver and interobserver reliability for the parameters evaluated were calculated. This included two methods for determining lordosis (S1 end-plate and pelvic radius techniques).Results.Plumb line measurements for balance from the S1 and hip axis reference points, as defined, were similar in all four groups. However, the groups appeared to adjust for balance by using common and distinctive spinopelvic compensations that resulted in significantly and characteristically different angular alignments among the four groups. Lordosis and balance measurements were closely correlated, and the correlation was characterized by pelvic rotation and translation around the hip axis. The subjects with less lordosis typically stood with the C7 plumb line anterior to and at a longer distance from the sacral reference point. This was primarily because of posterior sacropelvic translation around the hip axis and not because the sagittal plumb line initially moved anteriorly away from the sacrum. This was true in all four groups and gave the appearance that the sacropelvis was less well balanced over the hips in the subjects with less lordosis. Even small differences in lordosis appeared to be associated with considerable adjustments in the other spinopelvic alignments. Therefore, it was important to determine that lordosis was lumbopelvic more reliably measured by the pelvic radius technique.Conclusions.Lower lumbar lordosis, by the pelvic radius technique, and compensatory sacropelvic translation around a hip axis, in addition to measurements from this axis to the C7 plumb line, were the primary determinates and most reliable radiographic assessments for sagittal balance. Understanding the common and characteristically different compensations that occur with balance in these patients who had specific spinal disorders may help to improve their care.

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