Comparison of Manual and Digital Measurements in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

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Abstract

Study Design.

Comparison of manual and digital measurement of radiographic parameters in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).

Objective.

To assess the reliability of digital measures as compared to manual measures in the evaluation of AIS.

Summary of Background Data.

Radiographic parameters are critical to the evaluation of patients with AIS, and are frequently used to monitor curve progression and guide treatment decisions. The reliability of many of the more common radiographic measures has only recently been elucidated for both manual and digital measures. However, a comparative analysis of manual versus digital measures has been performed only for coronal Cobb angles. The inter-technique reliability of these parameters will have increasing importance as digital radiographic viewing and analysis become commonplace.

Methods.

There were 2 independent, blinded observers that measured 30 complete sets of preoperative (posterior-anterior, lateral, and both side-bending) and postoperative (posterior-anterior and lateral) radiographs on 4 different occasions. For the first 2 iterations, manual measurements were taken using the same pencil and protractor. For the last 2 iterations, measurements of digitized radiographs were taken on a software measurement program (PhDx, Albuquerque, NM). Coronal measures included the main thoracic and thoracolumbar/lumbar standing and side-bending Cobb angles, apical vertebral translation, coronal balance, T1 tilt angle, lowest instrumented vertebrae angle, angulation of the disc inferior to the lowest instrumented vertebrae, apical Nash-Moe vertebral rotation, and Risser grade. Sagittal parameters included T2–T5 and T5–T12 regional thoracic kyphosis, T2–T12 thoracic kyphosis, T10–L2 thoracolumbar junction sagittal curvature, T12–S1 lumbar lordosis, and global sagittal balance. The technique-dependent measurement variability and the inter-technique (manual vs. digital), intraobserver reliability were evaluated for each radiographic parameter (within 3°).

Results.

Digital measurement showed decreased intraobserver variability for many (9 of 15) of the radiographic parameters assessed. Likewise, digital measures indicated good or excellent correlation with the absolute values obtained with manual measurement for many (10 of 15) parameters. All but 1 of those parameters having moderate-to-poor correlation had been previously shown to have poor reliability, regardless of measurement technique. Statistically significant differences between measurement variability were noted for 6 measures, including 2 favoring digital and 4, manual. Significant differences in the absolute values were noted for 5 measures, determined at a difference of 3°. However, the differences in both parameter variability and absolute values tended to be small and of little clinical significance for manual versus digital measurement.

Conclusions.

Digital measurement showed improved measurement precision and good correlation with manual measurements for the majority of AIS parameters. Absolute differences between manual and digital measurements were generally small. Therefore, digital measures are acceptable as a valid technique for scoliosis evaluation. The importance of digital versus manual measurement reliability will increase as digital radiographic viewing becomes more prevalent.

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