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Reliability of assessing the coronal curvature of children with scoliosis by using ultrasound images

  • Original Clinical Article
  • Published:
Journal of Children's Orthopaedics



To investigate the intra- and inter-observer reliability of the coronal curvature asymmetry of children with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) using the center of lamina (COL) method on ultrasound (US) images.


A cadaver spinal column phantom which was manipulated to present 30 scoliotic curves of varying severity of scoliotic deformities was scanned using both the US and laser scanner (LS) systems. Three observers of varying experience and skill measured the coronal curvature using the Cobb method on the LS images and the COL method on the US images. All of the measurements were performed twice, with a 1-week interval to reduce memory bias. The intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC), the mean absolute differences (MAD), and the error index (EI) were calculated to determine the agreement on selecting the end vertebrae. In addition, five AIS subjects were scanned using the US system. One observer measured the coronal curvature on the US images twice, and the measurements were compared with the Cobb angle reported in the clinical records.


In the phantom study, the COL method showed high intra- and inter-observer reliabilities, with all ICC values >0.88. The maximum MAD of the COL measurements between different sessions among all observers was <4.1°. The EI values of the US method had similar end-vertebra selections as the LS method. The results of the pilot study showed a high intra-reliability for the US measurements. The measured difference between the Cobb and COL methods was 0.7° ± 0.5°.


The COL method using US images appears to be a very reliable method for measuring the coronal curvature in AIS without the need to expose the patient to radiation.

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This work was supported by the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, the China Scholarship Council, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Edmond H. M. Lou.

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Chen, W., Lou, E.H.M., Zhang, P.Q. et al. Reliability of assessing the coronal curvature of children with scoliosis by using ultrasound images. J Child Orthop 7, 521–529 (2013).

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