Quantitation of circumferential syndesmophyte height along the vertebral rim in ankylosing spondylitis using computed tomography

Sovira Tan, Jianhua Yao, John A. Flynn, Lawrence Yao, Michael M. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective. Using the 3-D imaging capability of computed tomography (CT), we developed an algorithm quantitating syndesmophyte height along the entire vertebral rim. We investigated its reliability and sensitivity to change, performed a 2-year longitudinal study, and compared it to CT measures of syndesmophyte volume. Methods. We performed thoracolumbar spine CT scans on 33 patients at baseline, Year 1, and Year 2, and computed syndesmophyte height in 4 intervertebral disc spaces (IDS). Height was computed every 5° (72 angular sectors) along the vertebral rim. These 72 measures were summed to form the circumferential height per IDS, and results from 4 IDS were summed to provide results per patient. To assess reliability, we compared results between 2 scans performed on the same day in 9 patients. Validity was assessed by associations with spinal flexibility. Results. Coefficient of variation for circumferential syndesmophyte height was 0.893% per patient, indicating excellent reliability. Based on the Bland-Altman analysis, an increase in circumferential height of more than 3.44% per patient represented a change greater than measurement error. At years1 and 2, mean (SD) circumferential syndesmophyte height increases were 10.2% (11.7%) and 16.1% (14.0%), respectively. Sensitivity to change was 0.72 and 0.87 at years 1 and 2, respectively. Circumferential syndesmophyte height correlated with the Schober test (r = -0.56, p = 0.0003) and lateral thoracolumbar flexion (r = -0.73, p < 0.0001). Conclusion. CT-based circumferential syndesmophyte height had excellent reliability and good sensitivity to change. It was more highly correlated with spine flexibility than syndesmophyte volume. The algorithm shows promise for longitudinal studies of syndesmophyte growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-478
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Computed tomography
  • Syndesmophyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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