Can unsupervised cluster analysis identify patterns of complex adult spinal deformity with distinct perioperative outcomes?



The objective of this study was to use an unsupervised cluster approach to identify patterns of operative adult spinal deformity (ASD) and compare the perioperative outcomes of these groups.


A multicenter data set included patients with complex surgical ASD, including those with severe deformities, significant surgical complexity, or advanced age who underwent a multilevel fusion. An unsupervised cluster analysis allowing for 10% outliers was used to identify different deformity patterns. The perioperative outcomes of these clusters were then compared using ANOVA, Kruskal-Wallis, and chi-square tests, with p values < 0.05 considered significant.


Two hundred eighty-six patients were classified into four clusters of deformity patterns: hyper-thoracic kyphosis (hyper-TK), severe coronal, severe sagittal, and moderate sagittal. Hyper-TK patients had the lowest disability (mean Oswestry Disability Index [ODI] 32.9 ± 17.1) and pain scores (median numeric rating scale [NRS] back score 6, leg score 1). The severe coronal cluster had moderate functional impairment (mean physical component score 34.4 ± 12.3) and pain (median NRS back score 7, leg score 4) scores. The severe sagittal cluster had the highest levels of disability (mean ODI 49.3 ± 15.6) and low appearance scores (mean 2.3 ± 0.7). The moderate cluster (mean 68.8 ± 7.8 years) had the highest pain interference subscores on the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (mean 65.2 ± 5.8). Overall 30-day adverse events were equivalent among the four groups. Fusion to the pelvis was most common in the moderate sagittal (89.4%) and severe sagittal (97.5%) clusters. The severe coronal cluster had more osteotomies per case (median 11, IQR 6.5-14) and a higher rate of 30-day implant-related complications (5.5%). The severe sagittal and hyper-TK clusters had more three-column osteotomies (43% and 32.3%, respectively). Hyper-TK patients had shorter hospital stays.


This cohort of patients with complex ASD surgeries contained four natural clusters of deformity, each with distinct perioperative outcomes.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Lafage, Renaud, Mitchell S Fourman, Justin S Smith, Shay Bess, Christopher I Shaffrey, Han Jo Kim, Khaled M Kebaish, Douglas C Burton, et al. (2023). Can unsupervised cluster analysis identify patterns of complex adult spinal deformity with distinct perioperative outcomes?. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine, 38(5). pp. 547–557. 10.3171/2023.1.spine221095 Retrieved from

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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.

Peter Passias

Instructor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

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