Adult lumbar scoliosis: Underreported on lumbar MR scans

Z. Anwar, E. Zan, S. K. Gujar, D. M. Sciubba, L. H. Riley, Ziya L Gokaslan, David M. Yousem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Adult lumbar scoliosis is an increasingly recognized entity that may contribute to back pain. We investigated the epidemiology of lumbar scoliosis and the rate at which it is unreported on lumbar MR images. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The coronal and sagittal sequences of lumbar spine MR imaging scans of 1299 adult patients, seeking care for low back pain, were reviewed to assess for and measure the degree of scoliosis and spondylolisthesis. Findings were compared with previously transcribed reports by subspecialty trained neuroradiologists. Inter- and intraobserver reliability was calculated. RESULTS: The prevalence of adult lumbar scoliosis on MR imaging was 19.9%, with higher rates in ages >60 years (38.9%, P < .001) and in females (22.6%, P = .002). Of scoliotic cases, 66.9% went unreported, particularly when the scoliotic angle was <20° (73.9%, P < .001); 10.5% of moderate to severe cases were not reported. Spondylolisthesis was present in 15.3% (199/1299) of cases, demonstrating increased rates in scoliotic patients (32.4%, P < .001), and it was reported in 99.5% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: Adult lumbar scoliosis is a prevalent condition with particularly higher rates among older individuals and females but is underreported on spine MR images. This can possibly result in delayed 1) identification of a potential cause of low back pain, 2) referral to specialized professionals for targeted evaluation and management, and 3) provision of health care. The coronal "scout images" should be reviewed as part of the complete lumbar spine evaluation if dedicated coronal sequences are not already part of the spine protocol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-837
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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