Can artificial intelligence support or even replace physicians in measuring sagittal balance?

European Spine Journal (2022) 31:1943–1951

Sagittal balance (SB) plays an important role in the surgical treatment of spinal disorders. The aim of this research study is to provide a detailed evaluation of a new, fully automated algorithm based on artificial intelligence (AI) for the determination of SB parameters on a large number of patients with and without instrumentation.

Methods Pre- and postoperative sagittal full body radiographs of 170 patients were measured by two human raters, twice by one rater and by the AI algorithm which determined: pelvic incidence, pelvic tilt, sacral slope, L1-S1 lordosis, T4-T12 thoracic kyphosis (TK) and the spino-sacral angle (SSA). To evaluate the agreement between human raters and AI, the mean error (95% confidence interval (CI)), standard deviation and an intra- and inter-rater reliability was conducted using intra-class correlation (ICC) coefficients.

Results ICC values for the assessment of the intra- (range: 0.88–0.97) and inter-rater (0.86–0.97) reliability of human raters are excellent. The algorithm is able to determine all parameters in 95% of all pre- and in 91% of all postoperative images with excellent ICC values (PreOP-range: 0.83–0.91, PostOP: 0.72–0.89). Mean errors are smallest for the SSA (PreOP: −0.1° (95%-CI: −0.9°–0.6°); PostOP: −0.5° (−1.4°–0.4°)) and largest for TK (7.0° (6.1°–7.8°); 7.1° (6.1°–8.1°)).

Conclusion A new, fully automated algorithm that determines SB parameters has excellent reliability and agreement with human raters, particularly on preoperative full spine images. The presented solution will relieve physicians from timeconsuming routine work of measuring SB parameters and allow the analysis of large databases efficiently.