Lung microstructure in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis before and after posterior spinal fusion

Robert P. Thomen, Jason C. Woods, Peter F. Sturm, Viral Jain, Laura L. Walkup, Nara S. Higano, James D. Quirk, Brian M. Varisco

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Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is associated with decreased respiratory quality of life and impaired diaphragm function. Recent hyperpolarized helium (HHe) MRI studies show alveolarization continues throughout adolescence, and mechanical forces are known to impact alveolarization. We therefore hypothesized that patients with AIS would have alterations in alveolar size, alveolar number, or alveolar septal dimensions compared to adolescents without AIS, and that posterior spinal fusion (PSF) might reverse these differences. We conducted a prospective observational trial using HHe MRI to test for changes in alveolar microstructure in control and AIS subjects at baseline and one year. After obtaining written informed consent from subjects’ legal guardians and assent from the subjects, we performed HHe and proton MRI in 14 AIS and 16 control subjects aged 8–21 years. The mean age of control subjects (12.9 years) was significantly less than AIS (14.9 years, p = 0.003). At baseline, there were no significant differences in alveolar size, number, or alveolar duct morphometry between AIS and control subjects or between the concave (compressed) and convex (expanded) lungs of AIS subjects. At one year after PSF AIS subjects had an increase in alveolar density in the formerly convex lung (p = 0.05), likely reflecting a change in thoracic anatomy, but there were no other significant changes in lung microstructure. Modeling of alveolar size over time demonstrated similar rates of alveolar growth in control and AIS subjects in both right and left lungs pre- and post-PSF. Although this study suffered from poor age-matching, we found no evidence that AIS or PSF impacts lung microstructure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240265
JournalPloS one
Issue number10 October 2020
StatePublished - Oct 2020


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