Incidence and risk factors of iatrogenic coronal malalignment after adult spinal deformity surgery: a single-center experience

Scott L. Zuckerman, Christopher S. Lai, Yong Shen, Nathan J. Lee, Mena G. Kerolus, Alex S. Ha, Ian A. Buchanan, Eric Leung, Meghan Cerpa, Ronald A. Lehman, Lawrence G. Lenke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: The authors' objectives were: 1) to evaluate the incidence and risk factors of iatrogenic coronal malalignment (CM), and 2) to assess the outcomes of patients with all three types of postoperative CM (iatrogenic vs unchanged/ worsened vs improved but persistent). Methods: A single-institution, retrospective cohort study was performed on adult spinal deformity (ASD) patients who underwent > 6-level fusion from 2015 to 2019. Iatrogenic CM was defined as immediate postoperative C7 coronal vertical axis (CVA) . 3 cm in patients with preoperative CVA < 3 cm. Additional subcategories of postoperative CM were unchanged/worsened CM, which was defined as immediate postoperative CVA within 0.5 cm of or worse than preoperative CVA, and improved but persistent CM, which was defined as immediate postoperative CVA that was at least 0.5 cm better than preoperative CVA but still . 3 cm; both groups included only patients with preoperative CM. Immediate postoperative radiographs were obtained when the patient was discharged from the hospital after surgery. Demographic, radiographic, and operative variables were collected. Outcomes included major complications, readmissions, reoperations, and patient-reported outcomes (PROs). The t-test, Kruskal-Wallis test, and univariate logistic regression were performed for statistical analysis. Results: In this study, 243 patients were included, and the mean ± SD age was 49.3 ± 18.3 years and the mean number of instrumented levels was 13.5 ± 3.9. The mean preoperative CVA was 2.9 ± 2.7 cm. Of 153/243 patients without preoperative CM (CVA < 3 cm), 13/153 (8.5%) had postoperative iatrogenic CM. In total, 43/243 patients (17.7%) had postoperative CM: iatrogenic CM (13/43 [30.2%]), unchanged/worsened CM (19/43 [44.2%]), and improved but persistent CM (11/43 [25.6%]). Significant risk factors associated with iatrogenic CM were anxiety/depression (OR 3.54, p = 0.04), greater preoperative sagittal vertical axis (SVA) (OR 1.13, p = 0.007), greater preoperative pelvic obliquity (OR 1.41, p = 0.019), lumbosacral fractional (LSF) curve concavity to the same side of the CVA (OR 11.67, p = 0.020), maximum Cobb concavity opposite the CVA (OR 3.85, p = 0.048), and three-column osteotomy (OR 4.34, p = 0.028). In total, 12/13 (92%) iatrogenic CM patients had an LSF curve concavity to the same side as the CVA. Among iatrogenic CM patients, mean pelvic obliquity was 3.1°, 4 (31%) patients had pelvic obliquity > 3°, mean preoperative absolute SVA was 8.0 cm, and 7 (54%) patients had preoperative sagittal malalignment. Patients with iatrogenic CM were more likely to sustain a major complication during the 2-year postoperative period than patients without iatrogenic CM (12% vs 33%, p = 0.046), yet readmission, reoperation, and PROs were similar. ConclusionsL Postoperative iatrogenic CM occurred in 9% of ASD patients with preoperative normal coronal alignment (CVA < 3 cm). ASD patients who were most at risk for iatrogenic CM included those with preoperative sagittal malalignment, increased pelvic obliquity, LSF curve concavity to the same side as the CVA, and maximum Cobb angle concavity opposite the CVA, as well as those who underwent a three-column osteotomy. Despite sustaining more major complications, iatrogenic CM patients did not have increased risk of readmission, reoperation, or worse PROs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-594
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • adult spine deformity
  • iatrogenic coronal malalignment
  • postoperative complications
  • spine deformity surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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