There is no consensus on which surface topography (ST) parameters may be used to detect scoliosis progression. The sensitivity to change of common ST parameters has not yet been compared. The goal of this study was to determine which ST parameters are most sensitive to scoliosis progression in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) receiving conservative treatment. Fifty-eight subjects with AIS were included whose Cobb angle had progressed by at least 5° during a 1 year interval. All had had ST scans and frontal radiographs at a 12 month interval at our clinic. Commonly used back-only ST parameters and contributing scores were derived by one evaluator. Standardized response mean (SRM) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using the absolute value of the changes between baseline and follow-up to reflect change in deformity, independent of direction. Decompensation, cosmetic score, Deformity in the Axial Plane Index (DAPI), trunk rotation, Hump Sum, and lordosis angle were highly sensitive to scoliosis progression (SRM>0.8). Cosmetic score, Posterior Trunk Symmetry Index (POTSI), and kyphosis angle had significantly poorer SRM values than the Cobb angle. All other ST parameters had SRM estimates that did not differ significantly from the Cobb angle, suggesting that they have a similar ability to detect progression The ST measures that were most sensitive to detection of scoliosis progression in the frontal, transverse, and sagittal planes were decompensation, trunk rotation, and lordosis angle, respectively. Absolute changes in surface parameters representing either worsening or improvement externally could reflect worsening of the internal deformity. The majority of ST parameters are potentially sensitive to scoliosis progression.
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