Radiographic Measurement Parameters in Thoracolumbar Fractures: A Systematic Review and Consensus Statement of the Spine Trauma Study Group

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Abstract

Study Design.

Systematic review.

Objectives.

To review the various radiographic parameters currently used to assess traumatic thoracolumbar injuries, emphasizing the validity and technique behind each one, to formulate evidence-based guidelines for a standardized radiographic method of assessment of these fractures.

Summary of Background Data.

The treatment of thoracolumbar fractures is guided by various radiographic measurement parameters. Unfortunately, for each group of parameters, there has usually been more than 1 proposed measurement technique, thus creating confusion when gathering data and reporting outcomes. Ultimately, this effect results in clinical decisions being based on nonstandardized, nonvalidated outcome measures.

Methods.

Computerized bibliographic databases were searched up to January 2004 using key words and Medical Subject Headings on thoracolumbar spine trauma, radiographic parameters, and methodologic terms. Using strict inclusion criteria, 2 independent reviewers conducted study selection, data abstraction, and methodologic quality assessment.

Results.

There were 18 original articles that ultimately constituted the basis for the review. Of radiographic measurement parameters, 3 major groups were identified, depicting the properties of the injured spinal column: sagittal alignment, vertebral body compression, and spinal canal dimensions, with 14 radiographic parameters reported to assess these properties.

Conclusions.

Based on a systematic review of theliterature and expert opinion from an experienced group of spine trauma surgeons, it is recommended that the following radiographic parameters should be used routinely to assess thoracolumbar fractures: the Cobb angle, to assess sagittal alignment; vertebral body translation percentage, to express traumatic anterolisthesis; anterior vertebral body compression percentage, to assess vertebral body compression, the sagittal-to-transverse canal diameter ratio, and canal total cross-sectional area (measured or calculated); and the percent canal occlusion, to assess canal dimensions.

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