Background: It is common practice to use a combination approach of computed tomography (CT) scan followed by upright radiographs when assessing traumatic thoracolumbar (TL) vertebral fractures. The purpose of this study was to determine the clinical utility of upright spine radiographs in the setting of traumatic TL fracture management. Our null hypothesis is that upright TL radiographs rarely change management of acute vertebral fractures. Methods: A retrospective study was performed on patients with an initial plan of non-operative management for a TL fracture between January 2014 and June 2020 at a single Level 1 trauma center. Patients were followed from time of initial consult to either conversion to surgery (operative) or last available outpatient follow up imaging (non-operative). Lateral kyphotic angle of the fractured vertebra and anterior vertebral body height% loss on initial CT, first upright radiograph, and endpoint upright radiograph imaging were measured. Measurements were compared between and within operative and non-operative groups using t-tests and Mann-Whitney U tests when appropriate. P-values ≤ 0.05 were considered statistically significant. Results: The study included 70 patients with an average age of 54 years and 37 (52.9%) were women. Six (8.6%) of 70 patients had a change from non-operative to operative management based on upright radiographs. The mean (standard deviation) change in degrees of kyphosis from CT scan to first X-ray was 4.6 (7.0) in the non-operative group and 11.5 (8.1) in the operative group (P = 0.03). Delta degrees of kyphosis from CT scan to endpoint X-ray was 6.4 (9.0) and 16.2 (6.2) in the non-operative and operative groups, respectively (P = 0.01). In the operative group, mean degrees of kyphosis increased from 1.6 (7.6) in initial CT to 13.1 (8.9) in first X-ray (P = 0.02). First X-ray mean anterior body height% loss was 37.5 (17.6) and 53.2 (16.1) in the non-operative and operative groups, respectively (P = 0.04). Conclusions: Upright radiographs are useful in guiding traumatic vertebral fracture management decisions. Larger studies are needed to determine the degree of change in kyphosis between CT and first standing radiograph that is suggestive of operative management. Trial registration number and date of registration: Not applicable.
- Upright radiograph
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine