Physiological variations in the sagittal spine alignment in an asymptomatic elderly population

Tito Bassani, Fabio Galbusera, Andrea Luca, Alessio Lovi, Enrico Gallazzi, Marco Brayda-Bruno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Sagittal plane alignment is of crucial importance for the treatment of spinal deformities. When planning corrective strategies, spine surgeons need to refer to normative parameters’ ranges which characterize the alignment in the asymptomatic population. Changes are known to occur with age. For the Caucasian population, the reference ranges are extensively documented for the young and middle-aged adults. In contrast, only a few studies have evaluated individuals in advanced age (>60 years) and in groups of limited numbers of subjects (less than 50). PURPOSE: To describe the normative parameter ranges of sagittal spine alignment in a large population of asymptomatic elderly subjects. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Monocentric, prospective, cross-sectional study. PATIENT SAMPLE: One hundred sixty asymptomatic elderly volunteers (age>60 years, Caucasian heritage), consecutively enrolled. OUTCOME MEASURES: Sagittal parameters of spine and pelvis: thoracic kyphosis (TK); lumbar lordosis (LL); sacral slope (SS); pelvic incidence (PI); pelvic tilt (PT); sagittal vertical axis (SVA); T1 pelvic angle (TPA); mismatch between PI and LL (PI-LL); Roussouly classification of the lumbopelvic profile. METHODS: Each subject underwent one radiographic scan, performed in standing position with EOS low-dose system (EOS Imaging, Paris, France). The radiographic images were processed with sterEOS software allowing identification of the anatomical parameters and the presence of scoliosis. SVA, TPA, and the lumbopelvic profile were manually measured in the lateral images. The results were compared to previous studies describing younger adult populations. The study was supported by the Italian Ministry of Health in the amount of $15,000. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interests. RESULTS: Overall, the average values of the spinopelvic parameters were the followings: TK, 55±14°; LL, 57±12°; PI, 55±11°; SS, 38±10°; PT, 16±7°. The average PI-LL, SVA, and TPA was −3±11°, 25±32 mm, and 14.6±7.4°, respectively. TK, TPA, and SVA were found increasing with age. As for classification of the lumbopelvic profile, 16% of subjects were excluded because they were considered not to belong to any of the Roussouly types. In the classified subjects, the distribution was similar to that of younger adults. Asymptomatic scoliosis (average Cobb angle, 22±7°) was identified in 27% of individuals. CONCLUSIONS: The ranges of values pointed out differences compared to younger adults and represent an important resource for spine surgeons in planning the surgical correction of spinal deformities. The characteristic changes occurring with age, as well as the observed presence of mild or moderate asymptomatic scoliosis, should be carefully taken into account. The classification of the lumbopelvic profile based on the Roussouly scheme revealed some limitations, although similar frequencies were identified compared to younger adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1840-1849
Number of pages10
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Asymptomatic elderly subjects
  • Low-dose radiography
  • Normative ranges
  • Roussouly classification
  • Spine sagittal alignment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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