Classification of the Normal Variation in the Sagittal Alignment of the Human Lumbar Spine and Pelvis in the Standing Position

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Abstract

Study Design.

A prospective radiographic study of 160 volunteers without symptoms of spinal disease was conducted.

Objectives.

The objective of this study was to describe, quantify, and classify common variations in the sagittal alignment of the spine, sacrum, and pelvis.

Summary of Background Data.

Previous publications have documented the high degree of variability in the sagittal alignment of the spine. Other studies have suggested that specific changes in alignment and the characteristics of the lumbar lordosis are responsible for degenerative changes and symptomatic back pain.

Methods.

In the course of this study, anteroposterior and lateral radiographs of 160 volunteers in a standardized standing position were taken. A custom computer application was used to analyze the alignment of the spine and pelvis on the lateral radiographs. A four-part classification scheme of sagittal morphology was used to classify each patient.

Results.

Reciprocal relationships between the orientation of the sacrum, the sacral slope, the pelvic incidence, and the characteristics of the lumbar lordosis were evident. The global lordotic curvature, lordosis tilt angle, position of the apex, and number or lordotic vertebrae were determined by the angle of the superior endplate of S1 with respect to the horizontal axis.

Conclusions.

Understanding the patterns of variation in sagittal alignment may help to discover the association between spinal balance and the development of degenerative changes in the spine.

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