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January 2009 Issue

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'Deformity' Defined With New Spinal Classification

By Cindy Starr
Published January 2009

A UC neurosurgeon has spearheaded the creation of a new spinal deformity classification system. The system, published last fall in the journal Neurosurgery, defines deformity in relation to the healthy, normal curve of the spine.

“What we’ve done is define spinal deformity and its manifestations throughout the course of a lifetime, based on a systematic approach to the spine, from the head to the pelvis,” says Charles Kuntz IV, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery and director of the division of spine and peripheral nerve surgery at the UC Neuroscience Institute.

“Defining deformity with this degree of precision allows us to provide optimal treatment.”

Kuntz and his coauthors defined spinal deformity by synthesizing published literature that describes normal neutral upright spinal alignment in asymptomatic juvenile, adolescent, adult and geriatric volunteers.

The researchers used a total of 38 angles and displacements to define neutral upright spinal alignment, compiling their data over five years. An estimated 1.5 percent of the population has some degree of spinal deformity, which can take many forms.

Abnormal curvatures can occur from side to side, as in scoliosis; they can involve an abnormal forward curve of the spine, known as kyphosis, or hunchback; and they can involve an abnormal posterior curve of the lower spine, known as lordosis, or swayback.

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