Predictive model for distal junctional kyphosis after cervical deformity surgery.


Background context

Distal junctional kyphosis (DJK) is a primary concern of surgeons correcting cervical deformity. Identifying patients and procedures at higher risk of developing this condition is paramount in improving patient selection and care.


The present study aimed to develop a risk index for DJK development in the first year after surgery.

Study design/setting

This is a retrospective review of a prospective multicenter cervical deformity database.

Patient sample

Patients over the age of 18 meeting one of the following deformities were included in the study: cervical kyphosis (C2-7 Cobb angle>10°), cervical scoliosis (coronal Cobb angle>10°), positive cervical sagittal imbalance (C2-C7 sagittal vertical axis (SVA)>4 cm or T1-C6>10°), or horizontal gaze impairment (chin-brow vertical angle>25°).

Outcome measures

Development of DJK at any time before 1 year.


Distal junctional kyphosis was defined by both clinical diagnosis (by enrolling surgeon) and post hoc identification of development of an angle<-10° from the end of fusion construct to the second distal vertebra, as well as a change in this angle by <-10° from baseline. Conditional Inference Decision Trees were used to identify factors predictive of DJK incidence and the cut-off points at which they have an effect. A conditional Variable-Importance table was constructed based on a non-replacement sampling set of 2,000 Conditional Inference Trees. Twelve influencing factors were found; binary logistic regression for each variable at significant cutoffs indicated their effect size.


Statistical analysis included 101 surgical patients (average age: 60.1 years, 58.3% female, body mass index: 30.2) undergoing long cervical deformity correction (mean levels fused: 7.1, osteotomy used: 49.5%, approach: 46.5% posterior, 17.8% anterior, 35.7% combined). In 2 years after surgery, 6% of patients were diagnosed with clinical DJK; however, 23.8% of patients met radiographic definition for DJK. Patients with neurologic symptoms were at risk of DJK (odds ratio [OR]: 3.71, confidence interval [CI]: 0.11-0.63). However, no significant relationship was found between osteoporosis, age, and ambulatory status with DJK incidence. Baseline radiographic malalignments were the most numerous and strong predictors for DJK: (1) C2-T1 tilt>5.33 (OR: 6.94, CI: 2.99-16.14); (2) kyphosis<-50.6° (OR: 5.89, CI: 0.07-0.43); (3) C2-C7 lordosis<-12° (OR: 5.7, CI: 0.08-0.41); (4) T1 slope minus cervical lordosis>36.4 (OR: 5.6, CI: 2.28-13.57); (5) C2-C7 SVA>56.3° (OR: 5.4, CI: 2.20-13.23); and (6) C4_Tilt>56.7 (OR: 5.0, CI: 1.90-13.1). Clinically, combined approaches (OR: 2.67, CI: 1.21-5.89) and usage of Smith-Petersen osteotomy (OR: 2.55, CI: 1.02-6.34) were the most important predictors of DJK.


In a surgical cohort of patients with cervical deformity, we found a 23.8% incidence of DJK. Different procedures and patient malalignment predicted incidence of DJK up to 1 year. Preoperative T1 slope-cervical lordosis, cervical kyphosis, SVA, and cervical lordosis all strongly predicted DJK at specific cut-off points. Knowledge of these factors will potentially help direct future study and strategy aimed at minimizing this potentially dramatic occurrence.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Passias, Peter G, Dennis Vasquez-Montes, Gregory W Poorman, Themistocles Protopsaltis, Samantha R Horn, Cole A Bortz, Frank Segreto, Bassel Diebo, et al. (2018). Predictive model for distal junctional kyphosis after cervical deformity surgery. The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society, 18(12). pp. 2187–2194. 10.1016/j.spinee.2018.04.017 Retrieved from

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Peter Passias

Instructor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Christopher Ignatius Shaffrey

Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I have more than 25 years of experience treating patients of all ages with spinal disorders. I have had an interest in the management of spinal disorders since starting my medical education. I performed residencies in both orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire range of spinal disorders. My goal has been to find innovative ways to manage the range of spinal conditions, straightforward to complex. I have a focus on managing patients with complex spinal disorders. My patient evaluation and management philosophy is to provide engaged, compassionate care that focuses on providing the simplest and least aggressive treatment option for a particular condition. In many cases, non-operative treatment options exist to improve a patient’s symptoms. I have been actively engaged in clinical research to find the best ways to manage spinal disorders in order to achieve better results with fewer complications.

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