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Qi Wang, Chi Wang, Xiaobo Zhang, Fanqi Hu, Wenhao Hu, Teng Li, Yan Wang, and Xuesong Zhang

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to investigate whether bone mineral density (BMD) measured in Hounsfield units (HUs) is correlated with proximal junctional failure (PJF).

METHODS

A retrospective study of 104 patients with adult degenerative lumbar disease was performed. All patients underwent posterior instrumented fusion of 4 or more segments and were followed up for at least 2 years. Patients were divided into two groups on the basis of whether they had mechanical complications of PJF. Age, sex ratio, BMI, follow-up time, upper instrumented vertebra (UIV), lower instrumented vertebra, and vertebral body osteotomy were recorded. The spinopelvic parameters were measured on early postoperative radiographs. The HU value of L1 trabecular attenuation was measured on axial and sagittal CT scans. Statistical analysis was performed to compare the difference of continuous and categorical variables. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to obtain attenuation thresholds. A Kaplan-Meier curve and log-rank test were used to analyze the differences in PJF-free survival. Multivariate analysis via a Cox proportional hazards model was used to analyze the risk factors.

RESULTS

The HU value of L1 trabecular attenuation in the PJF group was lower than that in the control group (p < 0.001). The spinopelvic parameter L4–S1 lordosis was significantly different between the groups (p = 0.033). ROC curve analysis determined an optimal threshold of 89.25 HUs (sensitivity = 78.3%, specificity = 80.2%, area under the ROC curve = 0.799). PJF-free survival significantly decreased in patients with L1 attenuation ≤ 89.25 HUs (p < 0.001, log-rank test). When L1 trabecular attenuation was ≤ 89.25 HUs, PJF-free survival in patients with the UIV at L2 was the lowest, compared with patients with their UIV at the thoracolumbar junction or above (p = 0.028, log-rank test).

CONCLUSIONS

HUs could provide important information for surgeons to make a treatment plan to prevent PJF. L1 trabecular attenuation ≤ 89.25 HUs measured by spinal CT scanning could predict the incidence of PJF. Under this condition, the UIV at L2 significantly increases the incidence of PJF.