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This article is the author’s final published version in Asian Spine Journal, Volume 17, Issue 4, July 2023, Pages 721-728.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2023 by Korean Society of Spine Surgery.


STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

PURPOSE: Our goal was to determine which radiographic images are most essential for degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) classification and instability detection.

OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE: The heterogeneity in DS requires multiple imaging views to evaluate vertebral translation, disc space, slip angle, and instability. However, there are several restrictions on frequently used imaging perspectives such as flexion-extension and upright radiography.

METHODS: We assessed baseline neutral upright, standing flexion, seated lateral radiographs, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for patients identified with spondylolisthesis from January 2021 to May 2022 by a single spine surgeon. DS was classified by Meyerding and Clinical and Radiographic Degenerative Spondylolisthesis classifications. A difference of >10° or >8% between views, respectively, was used to characterize angular and translational instability. Analysis of variance and paired chi-square tests were utilized to compare modalities.

RESULTS: A total of 136 patients were included. Seated lateral and standing flexion radiographs showed the greatest slip percentage (16.0% and 16.7%), while MRI revealed the lowest (12.2%, p0.05). Translational instability was shown to be more prevalent when associated with seated lateral or standing flexion than when combined with neutral upright (31.5% vs. 20.2%, p =0.041; and 28.1% vs. 14.6%, p =0.014, respectively). There were no differences between seated lateral or standing flexion in the detection of instability (all p >0.20).

CONCLUSIONS: Seated lateral radiographs are appropriate alternatives for standing flexion radiographs. Films taken when standing up straight do not offer any more information for DS detection. Rather than standing flexion-extension radiographs, instability can be detected using an MRI, which is often performed preoperatively, paired with a single seated lateral radiograph.

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