Reliability of Clinical Measurement for Assessing Spinal Fusion: An experimental sheep study

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Sugiyama, Sadahiro
Wullschleger, Martin
Wilson, Kathleen
Williams, Richard
Goss, Ben
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2012
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Abstract

Study Design. A sheep study designed to compare the accuracy of static radiographs, dynamic radiographs, and computed tomographic (CT) scans for the assessment of thoracolumbar facet joint fusion as determined by micro-CT scanning.

Objective. To determine the accuracy and reliability of conventional imaging techniques in identifying the status of thoracolumbar (T13–L1) facet joint fusion in a sheep model.

Summary of Background Data. Plain radiographs are commonly used to determine the integrity of surgical arthrodesis of the thoracolumbar spine. Many previous studies of fusion success have relied solely on postoperative assessment of plain radiographs, a technique lacking sensitivity for pseudarthrosis. CT may be a more reliable technique, but is less well characterized.

Methods. Eleven adult sheep were randomized to either attempted arthrodesis using autogenous bone graft and internal fixation (n = 3) or intentional pseudarthrosis (IP) using oxidized cellulose and internal fixation (n = 8). After 6 months, facet joint fusion was assessed by independent observers, using (1) plain static radiography alone, (2) additional dynamic radiographs, and (3) additional reconstructed spiral CT imaging. These assessments were correlated with high-resolution micro-CT imaging to predict the utility of the conventional imaging techniques in the estimation of fusion success.

Results. The capacity of plain radiography alone to correctly predict fusion or pseudarthrosis was 43% and was not improved using plain radiography and dynamic radiography with also a 43% accuracy. Adding assessment by reformatted CT imaging to the plain radiography techniques increased the capacity to predict fusion outcome to 86% correctly. The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of static radiography were 0.33, 0.55, and 0.43, respectively, those of dynamic radiography were 0.46, 0.40, and 0.43, respectively, and those of radiography plus CT were 0.88, 0.85, and 0.86, respectively.

Conclusion. CT-based evaluation correlated most closely with high-resolution micro-CT imaging. Neither plain static nor dynamic radiographs were able to predict fusion outcome accurately.

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Spine

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37

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9

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Biomedical engineering

Clinical sciences

Radiology and organ imaging

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