Changes in peri-apical vertebral body and intervertebral disc shape in both the sagittal and coronal planes correlate with scoliosis severity: a 3D study of 397 patients



To evaluate associations between vertebrae and disc shape asymmetry and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) curve severity.


Analysis included normal screening referrals and patients with right, main thoracic AIS who underwent upright, biplanar radiographs with 3D reconstruction at a single institution from 2010 to 2015. Peri-apical anterior, posterior, right, and left vertebral body heights (aVBH, pVBH, rVBH, lVBH) and intervertebral disc heights (DH) were measured, and ratios of these measurements were calculated in sagittal and coronal planes. Correlations were performed between curve severity and height measurements. Sagittal and coronal plane components of these measurements were compared between normal controls with coronal curve measurements < 11° and patients with moderate (11°–49°) and severe curves (≥ 50°), with tolerance intervals established for the normal controls.


The analysis included a total of 397 patients. Patients with AIS had coronal curve measurements ranging from 11° to 101°. Greater coronal curve severity strongly correlated with smaller pVBH relative to aVBH and moderately correlated with smaller pDH relative to aDH (r = − 0.643, r = − 0.305, respectively). aVBH was greater for larger curves; pVBH remained stable. Scoliosis severity strongly correlated with right relative to left VBH and DH ratios (r = 0.919, r = 0.865 respectively). In comparison of normal controls to severe curves, severe curves had significantly greater aVBH and aDH, while pVBH was not significantly different and pDH was significantly less. Nearly half (46.9%) of the severe curves were below the range of normal for PA vertebral height ratio.


In right, main thoracic AIS, greater main thoracic curve severity is associated with greater sagittal and coronal plane asymmetry of both the vertebral bodies and the discs. Severity more strongly correlates with vertebral changes in symmetry than with disc changes, though both are present.

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This work was funded in part by the Rady Children’s Spine Center Research Fund and in part by research grants to Setting Scoliosis Straight Foundation from DePuy Synthes Spine, EOS imaging, K2M, Medtronic, NuVasive and Zimmer Biomet in support of Harms Study Group research.

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Conception or design of the work; or acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work: TBS, TPB, CEB, FR, MJ, PON. Drafting or critically revising the work: TBS, TPB, CEB, FR, MJ, PON. Final approval of the version to be published: TBS, TPB, CEB, FR, MJ, PON.

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Correspondence to Peter O. Newton.

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Sullivan, T.B., Bastrom, T.P., Reighard, F. et al. Changes in peri-apical vertebral body and intervertebral disc shape in both the sagittal and coronal planes correlate with scoliosis severity: a 3D study of 397 patients. Spine Deform (2021).

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  • Scoliosis
  • 3-dimensional
  • Asymmetry
  • Vertebra
  • Disc
  • Height