Frontal and sagittal imbalance in patients with adolescent idiopathic deformity

Ozren Kubat, Dror Ovadia


The human spinal column underwent many significant changes over the 4.5 million years of our ancestral bipedalism. The main change, however, came with acquiring multiple curvatures in the sagittal plane. This alteration seems to have exposed a weakness in our body’s keystone and made us susceptible to thus far unbeknown problems of the spine because it has been noted that idiopathic scoliosis has not been observed in other primates. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a three-dimensional deformity of the spine causing an imbalance of the trunk as it increases in magnitude. A scoliotic curve comprises three components, the coronal, sagittal, and axial so that each curve can affect the global balance of the body differently. Patients with significant scoliotic deformities often find themselves at a biomechanical disadvantage when it comes to energy expenditure and keeping an upright stance. The pioneers of scoliosis research recognized the need for describing and quantifying deformity to better understand it, so they first translated clinical measurements to radiographs and built from there. The development of concepts like defining a curve by its end vertebrae and measuring its magnitude, assessing global spinal balance, describing the stable zone, and pinpointing the stable vertebra all followed suit. The importance of sagittal balance and restoring sagittal parameters during treatment was emphasized. In a quest to bring order to chaos, some tried to classify various scoliotic curve types. These classifications helped steer treatment decisions but were found lacking in many aspects. So far, a widely accepted three-dimensional classification of scoliosis still does not exist. This review aims to provide the reader with an overview of the development of balance and imbalance concepts in scoliosis.