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Dominic Maggio, Tamir T. Ailon, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Regis W. Haid Jr., Themistocles Protopsaltis, Eric Klineberg, Justin K. Scheer, Shay Bess, Paul M. Arnold, Jens Chapman, Michael G. Fehlings, Christopher Ames, AOSpine North America and International Spine Study Group


The associations among global spinal alignment, patient-reported disability, and surgical outcomes have increasingly gained attention. The assessment of global spinal alignment requires standing long-cassette anteroposterior and lateral radiographs; however, spine surgeons routinely rely only on short-segment imaging when evaluating seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. This may prohibit adequate surgical planning and may predispose surgeons to not recognize associated pathology in the thoracic spine and sagittal spinopelvic malalignment. The authors used a case-based survey questionnaire to evaluate if including long-cassette radiographs led to changes to respondents' operative plans as compared with their chosen plan when cases contained standard imaging of the involved lumbar spine only.


A case-based survey was distributed to AOSpine International members that consisted of 15 cases of lumbar spine pathology and lumbar imaging only. The same 15 cases were then shuffled and presented a second time with additional long-cassette radiographs. Each case required participants to select a single operative plan with 5 choices ranging from least to most extensive. The cases included 5 “control” cases with normal global spinal alignment and 10 “test” cases with significant sagittal and/or coronal malalignment. Mean scores were determined for each question with higher scores representing more invasive and/or extensive operative plans.


Of 712 spine surgeons who started the survey, 316 (44%) completed the entire series, including 68% of surgeons with spine fellowship training and representation from more than 40 countries. For test cases, but not for control cases, there were significantly higher average surgical invasiveness scores for cases presented with long-cassette radiographs (4.2) as compared with those cases with lumbar imaging only (3.4; p = 0.002). The addition of long-cassette radiographs resulted in 82.1% of respondents recommending instrumentation up to the thoracic spine, a 23.2% increase as compared with the same cases presented with lumbar imaging only (p = 0.008).


This study demonstrates the importance of maintaining a low threshold for performing standing long-cassette imaging when assessing seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. Such imaging is necessary for the assessment of spinopelvic and global spinal alignment, which can be important in operative planning. Deformity, particularly positive sagittal malalignment, may go undetected unless one maintains a high index of suspicion and obtains long-cassette radiographs. It is recommended that spine surgeons recognize the prevalence and importance of such deformity when contemplating operative intervention.

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Jin W. Tee, Carly S. Rivers, Nader Fallah, Vanessa K. Noonan, Brian K. Kwon, Charles G. Fisher, John T. Street, Tamir Ailon, Nicolas Dea, Scott Paquette and Marcel F. Dvorak


The aim of this study was to use decision tree modeling to identify optimal stratification groups considering both the neurological impairment and spinal column injury and to investigate the change in motor score as an example of a practical application. Inherent heterogeneity in spinal cord injury (SCI) introduces variation in natural recovery, compromising the ability to identify true treatment effects in clinical research. Optimized stratification factors to create homogeneous groups of participants would improve accurate identification of true treatment effects.


The analysis cohort consisted of patients with acute traumatic SCI registered in the Vancouver Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry (RHSCIR) between 2004 and 2014. Severity of neurological injury (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale [AIS grades A–D]), level of injury (cervical, thoracic), and total motor score (TMS) were assessed using the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury examination; morphological injury to the spinal column assessed using the AOSpine classification (AOSC types A–C, C most severe) and age were also included. Decision trees were used to determine the most homogeneous groupings of participants based on TMS at admission and discharge from in-hospital care.


The analysis cohort included 806 participants; 79.3% were male, and the mean age was 46.7 ± 19.9 years. Distribution of severity of neurological injury at admission was AIS grade A in 40.0% of patients, grade B in 11.3%, grade C in 18.9%, and grade D in 29.9%. The level of injury was cervical in 68.7% of patients and thoracolumbar in 31.3%. An AOSC type A injury was found in 33.1% of patients, type B in 25.6%, and type C in 37.8%. Decision tree analysis identified 6 optimal stratification groups for assessing TMS: 1) AOSC type A or B, cervical injury, and age ≤ 32 years; 2) AOSC type A or B, cervical injury, and age > 32–53 years; 3) AOSC type A or B, cervical injury, and age > 53 years; 4) AOSC type A or B and thoracic injury; 5) AOSC type C and cervical injury; and 6) AOSC type C and thoracic injury.


Appropriate stratification factors are fundamental to accurately identify treatment effects. Inclusion of AOSC type improves stratification, and use of the 6 stratification groups could minimize confounding effects of variable neurological recovery so that effective treatments can be identified.