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Selection of instrumentation and fusion levels for scoliosis: where to start and where to stop

Invited submission from the Joint Section Meeting on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, March 2004

Keith H. Bridwell

Object. Although there are several papers in the literature regarding selection of fusion levels in the adolescent patient, fewer articles pertain to this in the adult patient. The author reviewed his experience and the literature and reports on the choice of fusion levels in the adolescent and adult patient.

Methods. After a review of available data, the author determined that the proximal and distal extent of the fusion should be based on defining curves as either major or minor in the adolescent patient. It is often possible to exclude minor curves from the fusion. Relative Cobb measurement, apical deviation from the plumb line, and apical rotation are the most useful means of distinguishing a major from a minor curve. Otherwise, the proximal and distal extent of a fusion should be performed in such a way that the proximal and distal vertebrae are both neutral and stable (bisected by the center sacral line) postoperatively. Additional segments may need to be included in the adult patient in whom extensive degenerative changes and subluxations are present. The decision of whether to terminate a long fusion at L-5 or the sacrum in an adult degenerative lumbar curve is complex and many factors have to be considered.

Conclusions. Guidelines exist for fusion levels in both adolescent and adult patients. Not all curves require fusion. There are many coronal and sagittal considerations that have to be analyzed when making the final decision.

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Max S. Riley, Keith H. Bridwell, Lawrence G. Lenke, Jonathan Dalton and Michael P. Kelly


Significant health-related quality of life (HRQOL) benefits have been observed for patients undergoing primary and revision adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery. The purpose of this study was to report changes in HRQOL measures in a consecutive series of patients undergoing complex spinal reconstructive surgery, using Scoli-RISK-1 (SR-1) inclusion criteria.


This was a single-center, retrospective cohort study. The SR-1 inclusion criteria were used to define patients with complex ASD treated between June 1, 2009, and June 1, 2011. Standard preoperative and perioperative data were collected, including the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)–22r instrument. The HRQOL changes were evaluated at a minimum 2-year follow-up. Standardized forms were used to collect surgery-related complications data for all patients. Complications were defined as minor, transient major, or permanent major. Patients who achieved a minimum 2-year follow-up were included in the analysis.


Eighty-four patients meeting SR-1 criteria were identified. Baseline demographic and surgical data were available for 74/84 (88%) patients. Forty-seven of 74 (64%) patients met the additional HRQOL criteria with a minimum 2-year follow-up (mean follow-up 3.4 years, range 2–6.5 years). Twenty-one percent of patients underwent posterior fusion only, 40% of patients had a posterior column osteotomy, and 38% had a 3-column osteotomy. Seventy-five percent of patients underwent a revision procedure. Significant improvements were observed in all SRS-22r domains: Pain: +0.8 (p < 0.001); Self-Image: +1.4 (p < 0.001); Function: +0.46 (p < 0.001); Satisfaction: +1.6 (p < 0.001); and Mental Health: +0.28 (p = 0.04). With the exception of Mental Health, more than 50% of patients achieved a minimum clinically important difference (MCID) in SRS-22r domain scores (Mental Health: 20/47, 42.6%). A total of 65 complications occurred in 31 patients. This includes 29.8% (14/47) of patients who suffered a major complication and 17% (8/47) who suffered a postoperative neurological deficit, most commonly at the root level (10.6%, 5/47). Of the 8 patients who suffered a neurological deficit, 1 (13%) was able to achieve MCID in the SRS Function domain.


The majority of patients experienced clinically relevant improvement in SRS-22r HRQOL scores after complex ASD surgery. The greatest improvements were seen in the SRS Pain and SRS Self-Image domains. Although 30% of patients suffered a major or permanent complication, benefits from surgery were still attained. Patients sustaining a neurological deficit or major complication were unlikely to achieve HRQOL improvements meeting or exceeding MCID for the SRS Function domain.

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Owoicho Adogwa, Isaac O. Karikari, Aladine A. Elsamadicy, Amanda R. Sergesketter, Diego Galan and Keith H. Bridwell


Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are often measured up to 2 years after surgery; however, prospective collection of longitudinal outcomes for 5 years postoperatively can be challenging due to lack of patient follow-up. The aim of this study was to determine whether PROs collected at 2-year follow-up accurately predict long-term PROs 5 years after complex spinal fusion (≥ 5 levels).


This was an ambispective study of 118 adult patients (≥ 18 years old) undergoing ≥ 5-level spinal arthrodesis to the sacrum with iliac fixation from January 2002 to December 2011. Patient demographics and radiographic parameters as well as intraoperative variables were collected. PRO instruments (Scoliosis Research Society [SRS]-22r function, self-image, mental health, pain, and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]) were completed before surgery then at 2 and 5 years after surgery. Primary outcome investigated in this study was the correlation between SRS-22r domains and ODI collected at 2- and 5-year follow-up.


Of the 118 patients, 111 patients had baseline PROs, 105 patients had 2-year follow-up data, and 91 patients had 5-year follow-up PRO data with 72% undergoing revision surgery. The average pre- and postoperative major coronal curve Cobb angles for the cohort were 32.1° ± 23.7° and 19.8° ± 19.3°, respectively. There was a strong correlation between 2- and 5-year ODI (r2 = 0.80, p < 0.001) and between 2- and 5-year SRS-22r domains, including function (r2 = 0.79, p < 0.001), self-image (r2 = 0.82, p < 0.001), mental health (r2 = 0.77, p < 0.001), and pain (r2 = 0.79, p < 0.001). Of the PROs, ODI showed the greatest absolute change from baseline to 2- and 5-year follow-up (2-year Δ 17.6 ± 15.9; 5-year Δ 16.5 ± 19.9) followed by SRS-22r self-image (2-year Δ 1.4 ± 0.96; 5-year Δ 1.3 ± 1.0), pain (2-year Δ 0.94 ± 0.97; 5-year Δ 0.80 ± 1.0), function (2-year Δ 0.60 ± 0.62; 5-year Δ 0.49 ± 0.79), and mental health (2-year Δ 0.49 ± 0.77; 5-year Δ 0.38 ± 0.84).


Patient-reported outcomes collected at 2-year follow-up may accurately predict long-term PROs (5-year follow-up).

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Manish K. Kasliwal, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Leah Y. Carreon, Steven D. Glassman, Frank Schwab, Virginie Lafage, Kai-Ming G. Fu and Keith H. Bridwell


In many adults with scoliosis, symptoms can be principally referable to focal pathology and can be addressed with short-segment procedures, such as decompression with or without fusion. A number of patients subsequently require more extensive scoliosis correction. However, there is a paucity of data on the impact of prior short-segment surgeries on the outcome of subsequent major scoliosis correction, which could be useful in preoperative counseling and surgical decision making. The authors' objective was to assess whether prior focal decompression or short-segment fusion of a limited portion of a larger spinal deformity impacts surgical parameters and clinical outcomes in patients who subsequently require more extensive scoliosis correction surgery.


The authors conducted a retrospective cohort analysis with propensity scoring, based on a prospective multicenter deformity database. Study inclusion criteria included a patient age ≥ 21 years, a primary diagnosis of untreated adult idiopathic or degenerative scoliosis with a Cobb angle ≥ 20°, and available clinical outcome measures at a minimum of 2 years after scoliosis surgery. Patients with prior short-segment surgery (< 5 levels) were propensity matched to patients with no prior surgery based on patient age, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Cobb angle, and sagittal vertical axis.


Thirty matched pairs were identified. Among those patients who had undergone previous spine surgery, 30% received instrumentation, 40% underwent arthrodesis, and the mean number of operated levels was 2.4 ± 0.9 (mean ± SD). As compared with patients with no history of spine surgery, those who did have a history of prior spine surgery trended toward greater blood loss and an increased number of instrumented levels and did not differ significantly in terms of complication rates, duration of surgery, or clinical outcome based on the ODI, Scoliosis Research Society-22r, or 12-Item Short Form Health Survey Physical Component Score (p > 0.05).


Patients with adult scoliosis and a history of short-segment spine surgery who later undergo more extensive scoliosis correction do not appear to have significantly different complication rates or clinical improvements as compared with patients who have not had prior short-segment surgical procedures. These findings should serve as a basis for future prospective study.