What is the most accurate substitute for an invisible T1 slope in cervical radiographs? A comparative study of a novel method with previously reported substitutes

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa
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OBJECTIVE

The ability to utilize the T1 slope is often limited by poor visibility on cervical radiographs. The C7 slope has been proposed as a reliable substitute but may have similar limitations of visibility. Herein, the authors propose a novel method that takes advantage of the superior visibility on CT to accurately substitute for the radiographic T1 slope and compare the accuracy of this method with previously reported substitutes.

METHODS

Lateral neutral standing cervical radiographs and cervical CT scans were examined. When the T1 slope was clearly visible on radiographs, the C3–7 slopes and T1 slope were measured. In CT method 1, a direct method, the T1 slope was measured from the upper endplate of T1 to the bottom edge of the CT image, assuming the edge was parallel to the horizontal plane. In CT method 2, an overlaying method, the T1 slope was calculated by superimposing the C7 slope angle measured on a radiograph onto the CT scan and measuring the angle formed by the upper endplate of T1 and the superimposed horizontal line of the C7 slope. A Pearson correlation with linear regression modeling was performed for potential substitutes for the actual T1 slope.

RESULTS

Among 160 patients with available noninstrumented lateral neutral cervical radiographs, the T1 slope was visible in only 54 patients (33.8%). A total of 52 patients met the inclusion criteria for final analysis. The Pearson correlation coefficients between the T1 slope and the C3–7 slopes, CT method 1, and CT method 2 were 0.243 (p = 0.083), 0.292 (p = 0.035), 0.609 (p < 0.001), 0.806 (p < 0.001), 0.898 (p < 0.001), 0.426 (p = 0.002), and 0.942 (p < 0.001), respectively. Linear regression modeling showed R2 = 0.807 for the correlation between C7 slope and T1 slope and R2 = 0.888 for the correlation between T1 slope with the CT method 2 and actual T1 slope.

CONCLUSIONS

The C7 slope can be a reliable predictor of the T1 slope and is more accurate than more rostral cervical slopes. However, this study disclosed that the novel CT method 2, an overlaying method, was the most reliable estimate of true T1 slope with a greater positive correlation than C7 slope. When CT studies are available in patients with an invisible T1 slope on cervical radiographs, CT method 2 should be used as a substitute for the T1 slope.

ABBREVIATIONS

BMI = body mass index.

Illustration from Lee et al. (pp 822–829). Copyright Sun Joo Kim. Published with permission.

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