The aim of this study was to determine if the apical vertebra (AV) in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is the most rotated vertebra in the scoliotic segment.
A total of 158 patients with AIS (Cobb angle range 20°–101°) underwent biplanar radiography with 3D reconstructions of the spine and calculation of vertebral axial rotations. The type of major curvature was recorded (thoracic, thoracolumbar, or lumbar), and both major and minor curvatures were included. The difference of levels (DL) between the level of maximal vertebral rotation (LMVR) and the AV was calculated as follows: DL = 0 if LMVR and AV were the same, DL = 1 if LMVR was directly above or below the AV, and DL = 2 if LMVR was separated by 1 vertebra or more from the AV. To investigate which factors explained the divergence of the LMVR from the AV, multinomial models were computed.
The distribution of the DL was as follows: for major curvatures, 143 were DL = 0, 11 were DL = 1, and 4 were DL = 2; and for minor curvatures, 53 were DL = 0, 9 were DL = 1, and 31 were DL = 2. The determinants of a DL = 2 (compared with DL = 0) were lumbar curvature (compared with thoracic; adjusted OR 0.094, p = 0.001), major curvature (compared with minor; adjusted OR 0.116, p = 0.001), and curvatures with increasing apical vertebral rotation (adjusted OR 0.788, p < 0.001).
This study showed that the AV is the most rotated vertebra in the majority of major curvatures, while in minor curvatures, the most rotated vertebra appears to be the junctional vertebra between major and minor curvatures in a significant proportion of cases.