The effect of variation in arm position on sagittal spinal alignment

Ravishankar Vedantam, Lawrence G. Lenke, Keith H. Bridwell, Douglas L. Linville, Kathy Blanke

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93 Scopus citations


Study Design. A prospective radiographic analysis of sagittal alignment in patients with and without previous spinal fusion. Objectives. To evaluate the effect of variation of arm position on the segmental, regional, and global sagittal radiographic spinal alignment. In addition, to determine whether spinal fusion has any influence on the effect of variation in arm position on the sagittal spinal alignment. Summary of Background Data. Importance of segmenta, regional, and global sagittal alignment has been widely promoted. However, no mention has been made of arm positioning during a lateral spinal radiograph and the resultant effects it may have on sagittal alignment and balance. Methods. Prospective evaluation of 40 consecutive patients with and 40 consecutive patients without a previous spinal fusion was performed. The patients had lateral long cassette radiographs performed in a standardized fashion with the first radiograph obtained with the patient's arms raised horizontally forward at 90°of flexion at the shoulder, and the second radiograph obtained with arms raised horizontally forward at 30°of flexion at the shoulder. Standard segmental, regional, and global sagittal alignments were measured and statistically compared. Results. In comparing group 1 (patients with spinal fusion) to group 2 (patients without spinal fusion), there was no statistically significant difference in segmental and regional sagittal alignments. However, positioning the arms at 90° versus 30°resulted in a negative shift of the sagittal vertical axis (SVA) in patients that was statistically significant (P = 0.038) for those with (-6 mm at 90°vs +4 mm at 30°), but not (P = 0.119) for those patients without (-8 mm at 90°vs -4mm at 30°) a previous spinal fusion. Conclusions. Based on the findings in this study, the authors recommend positioning the arms at 30°of forward flexion from the vertical when obtaining a long cassette lateral radiograph of the entire spine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2204-2209
Number of pages6
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2000


  • Arm position
  • Sagittal plumb line
  • Sagittal spinal alignment
  • Sagittal vertical axis


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