Prospective multi-centric evaluation of upper cervical and infra-cervical sagittal compensatory alignment in patients with adult cervical deformity

International Spine Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: Reciprocal mechanisms for standing alignment have been described in thoraco-lumbar deformity but have not been studied in patients with primary cervical deformity (CD). The purpose of this study is to report upper- and infra-cervical sagittal compensatory mechanisms in patients with CD and evaluate their changes post-operatively. Methods: Global spinal alignment was studied in a prospective database of operative CD patients. Inclusion criteria were any of the following: cervical kyphosis (CK) > 10°, cervical scoliosis > 10°, cSVA (C2–C7 Sagittal vertical axis) > 4 cm or CBVA (Chin Brow Vertical Angle) > 25°. For this study, patients who had previous fusion outside C2 to T4 segments were excluded. Patients were sub-classified by increasing severity of cervical kyphosis [CL (cervical lordosis): < 0°, CK-low 0°–10°, CK-high > 10°] and cSVA (cSVA-low 0–4 cm, cSVA-mid 4–6 cm, cSVA-high > 6 cm) and were compared for pre- and 3-month post-operative regional and global sagittal alignment to determine compensatory recruitment. Results: 75 CD patients (mean age 61.3 years, 56% women) were included. Patients with progressively larger CK had a progressive increase in C0–C2 (CL = 34°, CK-low = 37°, CK-high = 44°, p = 0.004), C2Slope and T1Slope-CL (p < 0.05). As the cSVA increased, there was progressive increase in C2Slope, T1Slope and TS-CL (p < 0.05) and patients compensated through increasing C0–C2 (cSVA-low = 33°, cSVA-mid = 40°, cSVA-high = 43°, p = 0.007) and pelvic tilt (cSVA-low = 14.9°, cSVA-mid = 24.1°, cSVA-high = 24.9°, p = 0.02). At 3 months post-op, with significant improvement in cervical alignment, there was relaxation of C0–C2 (39°–35°, p = 0.01) which positively correlated with magnitude of deformity correction. Conclusions: Patients with cervical malalignment compensate with upper cervical hyper-lordosis, presumably for the maintenance of horizontal gaze. As cSVA increases, patients also tend to exhibit increased pelvic retroversion. Following surgical treatment, there was relaxation of upper cervical compensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-425
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Alignment
  • Cervical deformity
  • Compensation
  • Horizontal gaze
  • Upper cervical lordosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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