Utility of postoperative radiographs for pediatric scoliosis: Association between history and physical examination findings and radiographic findings

David N. Shau, Jesse E. Bible, Stephen P. Gadomski, Richard Samade, Sheyan Armaghani, Gregory A. Mencio, Clinton J. Devin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Postoperative radiographs are routinely obtained following surgery for the correction of scoliosis in pediatric patients. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the utility of obtaining routine postoperative radiographs in the management of these patients. Methods: A total of 1969 clinic notes and corresponding radiographs regarding 451 consecutive patients with scoliosis (age range, ten to eighteen years) who had surgical correction over a ten-year period at a single institution were retrospectively reviewed. Curve etiology, preoperative curve characteristics, and surgical procedures performed were recorded. All postoperative clinic notes and radiographs were reviewed for abnormalities and changes in treatment course. It was then determined whether clinical signs and symptoms and/or abnormal radiographic findings led to a change in treatment course, which was defined as a therapeutic intervention or further diagnostic testing. Results: Of the 451 patients in this study (average age [and standard deviation], 14.7 ± 2.4 years), 72.5% had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, 23.3% had neuromuscular scoliosis, and 4.2% had other underlying causes of scoliosis. A change in treatment course occurred in the cases of forty-two patients, all of whom had symptomatic findings on postoperative history and physical examination and only fifteen of whom had supportive abnormal findings on postoperative radiographs. Curve etiology and surgical procedures performed had no impact on radiographic utility. A significant increase in utility was seen for radiographs obtained at visits one year or more following surgery compared with those obtained at visits less than one year following surgery (1.7% compared with 0.3%, p = 0.001). The overall sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of routine postoperative radiographs in guiding treatment course were 35.7%, 98.1%, 28.8%, and 98.6%, respectively. Conclusions: Routine radiographs provide low utility in guiding the course of treatment for asymptomatic pediatric patients following surgery for scoliosis. The results of this study suggest that patient or caregiver complaints, comorbidities, and clinical suspicion should be considered before obtaining radiographs at postoperative visits in order to minimize radiation exposure in pediatric patients and reduce medical costs without compromising care. Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1127-1134
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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