Correlation of vertebral trabecular attenuation in Hounsfield units and the upper instrumented vertebra with proximal junctional failure after surgical treatment of degenerative lumbar disease

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  • 1 Medical School of Chinese PLA;
  • 2 Department of Orthopaedics, the First Medical Center, Chinese PLA General Hospital;
  • 3 Department of Clinical Laboratory Medicine, the First Medical Center, Chinese PLA General Hospital; and
  • 4 Department of Radiology, the First Medical Center, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China
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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.

ABBREVIATIONS AUC = area under the ROC curve; BMD = bone mineral density; DEXA = dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; HU = Hounsfield unit; LIV = lower instrumented vertebra; LL = lumbar lordosis; PI = pelvic incidence; PI-LL = PI minus LL; PJF = proximal junctional failure; PJK = proximal junctional kyphosis; PT = pelvic tilt; ROC = receiver operating characteristic; ROI = region of interest; SVA = sagittal vertical axis; UIV = upper instrumented vertebra; UIV+1 = vertebra above the UIV.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Xuesong Zhang: The First Medical Center, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China. zhangxuesong301pla@163.com.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online December 4, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2020.7.SPINE20920.

Q.W. and C.W. contributed equally to this work.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

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