End Vertebra Versus Apical Vertebra: Where Are We More Likely to Misplace in Spine Deformity?

Vishal Sarwahi, Stephen F. Wendolowski, Yungtai Lo, Beverly Thornhill, Terry Amaral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Data:Pedicle screws placement remains technically demanding. The thoracic curve apex is considerably difficult due to its unique morphology and severe rotation. In comparison the upper end vertebrae have smaller pedicles and limited soft tissue exposure. This study seeks to evaluate the likelihood of screw misplacement at the end vertebra and apex.Methods:A retrospective review of preoperative and postoperative computed tomographic (CT) scans of spinal deformity patients who underwent posterior spinal fusion with pedicle screw constructs between 2004 and 2011 was performed. Pedicles located at the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) and lower instrumented vertebra (LIV), and the major and minor apices were evaluated. Pedicle morphology was studied on preoperative CT and screw placement on postoperative CT.Results:In total, 188 patients met the inclusion criteria, 172 had preoperative CT scans and 133 had postoperative CT scans. The UIV had a significantly lower percentage of normal pedicles (type A) compared with apex major, apex minor, or LIV (59.1% vs. 76.1% vs. 77.3% vs. 98.7%; P<0.001). UIV had significantly the lowest percentage of normal normally placed screws compared with LIV, apex major, or apex minor (69.4% vs. 97.3% vs. 87.6% vs. 92.1%; P<0.001). In a logistic regression adjusted for preoperative Cobb angles, UIV was more likely to have screws misplaced (odds ratio =7.56; 95% confidence interval, 4.01-14.30; P<0.001) and abnormal pedicles (odds ratio=2.81; 95% confidence interval, 1.52-5.19; P=0.001) compared with any other location studied. In abnormal pedicles, 41 (39.8%) of the 103 UIV screws were misplaced, whereas 10 (16.4%) of the 61 apex major, apex minor, or LIV screws were misplaced (P=0.007).Conclusions:The UIV presents more of a risk for pedicle screw misplacement and abnormal morphology when compared with LIV and apical vertebra. We believe these findings can aid in the surgeon's preoperative and intraoperative management to ensure increased success in accurate and safe pedicle screw placement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-59
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • UIV
  • apex
  • kyphosis
  • misplaced screws
  • pedicle screw misplacements
  • pedicle screws
  • scoliosis
  • spinal deformity
  • spine
  • upper instrumented vertebral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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