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24.01.2018 | Review | Sonderheft 1/2018

European Spine Journal 1/2018

Sagittal balance and idiopathic scoliosis: does final sagittal alignment influence outcomes, degeneration rate or failure rate?

European Spine Journal > Sonderheft 1/2018
Brice Ilharreborde



In the last decade, spine surgeons have been impacted by the “sagittal plane analysis revolution”. Significant correlations have been found in adult spinal deformity (ASD) between sagittal lumbo-pelvic parameters and functional outcomes, but most of them do not apply in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Meanwhile, instrumentation and reduction strategies have considerably evolved. This paper aims to describe the preoperative sagittal alignment in AIS, and to report literature evidence regarding the influence of postoperative sagittal balance on complication rates, low back pain incidence and disc degeneration.


A bibliographic search in Medline and Google database from 1984 to May 2017 was performed. The keywords included ‘adolescent idiopathic scoliosis’, ‘adult scoliosis’, ‘sagittal alignment’, ‘proximal junctional kyphosis’, ‘distal junctional kyphosis’, ‘outcomes’, ‘low back pain’ and ‘complication’, used individually or in combination.


Algorithms of sagittal balance analysis and treatment decision have been reported in ASD, but the clinical situation is very different in children. Sagittal alignment greatly varies in AIS among the various Lenke types. Most patients are clinically balanced before surgery, but the spinal harmony is altered, with overgrowth of the anterior column and global sagittal flattening (undersestimated in 2D). The exact role of pelvic incidence and whether or not patients also use pelvic compensation to maintain balance still require further clarification. The incidence of radiological junctional failures remains highly variable, depending on definitions, cohort size and follow-up. Preoperative hyperkyphosis seems to be a consistent and relevant risk factor. Current literature does not support the recent trend to save motion segments (selective fusion), and no significant association was found between the distal level of fusion and the incidence of low back pain. Postoperative sagittal alignment seems to be more important than LIV selection to avoid disc degeneration at mid-term follow-up.


It is clear now that sagittal alignment plays a major role in clinical outcomes and should not be neglected in AIS. Seven key guidelines that should be considered for each patient before surgery are reported (Table 2). Personalized planning using 3D technology is gaining popularity and might help in the future reducing complications.

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