Risk factors for the development of DJK in AIS patients undergoing posterior spinal instrumentation and fusion

Harms Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: Typically, selection of lowest instrumented vertebra (LIV) in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is based on the coronal radiograph; however, increasing evidence suggests that fusions proximal to the stable sagittal vertebrae (SSV) on the lateral radiograph can result in distal junctional kyphosis (DJK). The purpose of this study is to compare rates of DJK in patients with AIS that have a discordance between the Lowest Touched Vertebra (LTV) and the SSV and to identify risk factors for developing DJK. Methods: Patients with AIS Lenke type 1, 2 and 3 curves treated with a posterior spinal fusion were separated into two groups. Group 1 had SSV that was proximal to the LTV whereas group 2 had SSV that was distal to the LTV. Comparisons were made for patients that were fused to the SSV(a), LTV(b) or between(c). Distal junctional angle (DJA) > 5° and increasing kyphosis at the end of the fusion construct were evaluated as risk factors for DJK. Results: The rate of DJK was 0.0% in group 1a, 1b, and 1c compared to 4.3%, 18.5% and 10.0% in groups 2a, 2b and 2c, respectively(p < 0.001). The rate of DJK was 22.9% when the distal junctional angle(DJA) > 5° versus 1.4% when the DJA < 5°(p < 0.001). Conclusion: There was a low risk for progression of DJK when the SSV was proximal to the LTV, however, those with SSV distal to the LTV represent a high-risk group. Importantly, the development of DJK occurred almost exclusively in patients with LIV at the thoracolumbar junction which demonstrates that surgeons need to be cautious when ending fusions at T11, T12, and L1 in patients at high risk for DJK. Furthermore, having a distal junctional angle 5° or greater increased the risk of developing DJK by roughly 16-fold. At a minimum of 5-year follow-up, the development of DJK did not appear to adversely impact SRS outcomes or revision rates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSpine deformity
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
  • Distal junctional kyphosis
  • Posterior spinal fusion
  • Stable sagittal vertebra


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