In Search of the Ever-Elusive Postoperative Shoulder Balance: Is the T2 UIV the Key?*

Harms Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Study Design: Multicenter review of prospectively collected data. Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a UIV of T2 reliably results in level shoulders postoperatively. Summary of Background Data: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) patients with a risk of a high left shoulder postoperatively are generally recommended to have instrumentation to T2, those with neutral shoulders a T3 UIV, and those with an elevated right shoulder are recommended a UIV of T4 or below in order to achieve postoperative shoulder balance. Methods: A prospective, multicenter AIS database was queried for subjects with minimum two-year follow-up who underwent posterior spinal fusion to correct their main thoracic deformity. Subjects were grouped based on their proximal fusion level. A high shoulder was defined as >1 cm difference on radiographs. Results: A total of 626 subjects met inclusion criteria and were divided by UIVs of T2 189, T3 205, and T4 232. Preoperatively, the groups had similar rates of balanced shoulders (T2 47%, T3 49%, T4 45%) and high left shoulders (T2 8.5%, T3 8.8%, and T4 7.3%). Postoperatively, there was a greater percentage of postoperative shoulder imbalance for T2 (45%) and T3 (48%) UIV groups as compared to T4 (34%, p =.008). As expected, the T2 (46%) and T3 (49%) groups had significantly better upper thoracic curve correction as compared to the T4 group (42%, p <.001). Conclusions: The selection of a T4 UIV results in more shoulder balance postoperatively than T2 or T3, regardless of which shoulder was elevated preoperatively. The selection of a T2 UIV does not guarantee postoperative shoulder balance following posterior treatment of main thoracic curves; however, when compared to the more caudal UIV of T4, an improved upper thoracic curve correction can be anticipated. Level of Evidence: Level 3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-711
Number of pages5
JournalSpine Deformity
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
  • Shoulder balance
  • Shoulder symmetry
  • Spinal fusion
  • Upper instrumented vertebra


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