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Extended report
Quantitative measurement of syndesmophyte volume and height in ankylosing spondylitis using CT
  1. Sovira Tan1,
  2. Jianhua Yao2,
  3. John A Flynn3,
  4. Lawrence Yao2,
  5. Michael M Ward1
  1. 1National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  3. 3School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael M Ward, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Building 10 CRC, Room 4-1339, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA; wardm1{at}


Objective Syndesmophyte growth in ankylosing spondylitis can be difficult to measure using radiographs because of poor visualisation and semiquantitative scoring methods. We developed and tested the reliability and validity of a new computer-based method that fully quantifies syndesmophyte volumes and heights on CT scans.

Methods In this developmental study, we performed lumbar spine CT scans on 38 patients and used our algorithm to compute syndesmophyte volume and height in four intervertebral disk spaces. To assess reliability, we compared results between two scans performed on the same day in nine patients. To assess validity, we compared computed measures to visual ratings of syndesmophyte volume and height on both CT scans and radiographs by two physician readers.

Results Coefficients of variation for syndesmophyte volume and height, based on repeat scans, were 2.05% and 2.40%, respectively. Based on Bland–Altman analysis, an increase in syndesmophyte volume of more than 4% or in height of more than 0.20 mm represented a change greater than measurement error. Computed volumes and heights were strongly associated with physician ratings of syndesmophyte volume and height on visual examination of both the CT scans (p<0.0001) and plain radiographs (p<0.002). Syndesmophyte volumes correlated with the Schober test (r=−0.48) and lateral thoracolumbar flexion (r=−0.60).

Conclusions This new CT-based method that fully quantifies syndesmophytes in three-dimensional space had excellent reliability and face and construct validity. Given its high precision, this method shows promise for longitudinal clinical studies of syndesmophyte development and growth.

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Spondyloarthritis
  • Arthritis

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