Patients undergoing long-segment fusions from the lower thoracic (LT) spine to the sacrum for adult spinal deformity (ASD) correction are at risk for proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK). One mechanism of PJK is fracture of the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) or higher (UIV+1), which may be related to bone mineral density (BMD). Because Hounsfield units (HUs) on CT correlate with BMD, the authors evaluated whether HU values were correlated with PJK after long fusions for ASD.
The authors performed a retrospective study of patients older than 50 years who had undergone ASD correction from the LT spine to the sacrum in the period from October 2007 to January 2018 and had a minimum 2-year follow-up. Demographic and spinopelvic parameters were measured. HU values were measured on preoperative CT at the UIV, UIV+1, and UIV+2 (2 levels above the UIV) levels and were assessed for correlations with PJK.
The records of 127 patients were reviewed. Fifty-four patients (19 males and 35 females) with a mean age of 64.91 years and mean follow-up of 3.19 years met the study inclusion criteria; there were 29 patients with PJK and 25 patients without. There was no statistically significant difference in demographics or follow-up between these two groups. Neither was there a difference between the groups with regard to postoperative pelvic incidence (PI), sacral slope (SS), lumbar lordosis (LL), PI minus LL (PI-LL), thoracic kyphosis (TK), or sagittal vertical axis (SVA; all p > 0.05). Postoperative pelvic tilt (p = 0.003) and T1 pelvic angle (p = 0.014) were significantly higher in patients with PJK than in those without. Preoperative HUs at UIV, UIV+1, and UIV+2 were 120.41, 124.52, and 129.28 in the patients with PJK, respectively, and 152.80, 155.96, and 160.00 in the patients without PJK, respectively (p = 0.011, 0.02, and 0.018). Three receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves for preoperative HU values at the UIV, UIV+1, and UIV+2 as a predictor for PJK were established, with areas under the ROC curve of 0.710 (95% CI 0.574–0.847), 0.679 (95% CI 0.536–0.821), and 0.681 (95% CI 0.539–0.824), respectively. The optimal HU value by Youden index was 104 HU at the UIV (sensitivity 0.840, specificity 0.517), 113 HU at the UIV+1 (sensitivity 0.720, specificity 0.517), and 110 HU at the UIV+2 (sensitivity 0.880, specificity 0.448).
In patients undergoing long-segment fusions from the LT spine to the sacrum for ASD, PJK was associated with lower HU values on CT at the UIV, UIV+1, and UIV+2. The measurement of HU values on preoperative CTs may be a useful adjunct for ASD surgery planning.