Vertebral level-dependent, angular, and linear translations of the spine have been measured in 2D and 3D using several imaging methods to quantify postural changes due to loading conditions and tasks. Here, we propose and validate a semiautomated method for measuring lumbar intervertebral angles and translations from upright MRI images using an endplate-based, joint coordinate system (JCS). This method was validated using 3D printed structures, representing intervertebral discs (IVD) at predetermined angles and heights, which were positioned between adjacent cadaveric vertebrae as a gold standard. Excellent agreement between our measurements and the gold standard was found for intervertebral angles in all anatomical planes (ICC > .997) and intervertebral distance measurements (ICC > .949). The proposed endplate-based JCS was compared with the vertebral body-based JCS proposed by the International Society of Biomechanics (ISB) using the 3D printed structures placed between 3 adjacent vertebrae from a cadaver with scoliosis. The endplate-based method was found to have better agreement with angles in the sagittal plane (ICC = 0.985) compared with the vertebral body-based method (ICC = .280). Thus, this method is accurate for measuring 3D intervertebral angles in the healthy and diseased lumbar spine.
David B. Berry, Ana E. Rodríguez-Soto, and Samuel R. Ward are with the Department of Bioengineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA. Jana R. Tokunaga and Sara P. Gombatto are with the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Samuel R. Ward is also with the Departments of Radiology and Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA.