Alexander L. Hornung, Christopher M. Hornung, G. Michael Mallow, J. Nicolás Barajas, Augustus Rush, Arash J. Sayari, Fabio Galbusera, Hans-Joachim Wilke, Matthew Colman, Frank M. Phillips, Howard S. An, Dino Samartzis

March 2022, pp 1 - 25 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07176-0

First Online: 27 March 2022

Artificial intelligence in spine care: current applications and future utility


The field of artificial intelligence is ever growing and the applications of machine learning in spine care are continuously advancing. Given the advent of the intelligence-based spine care model, understanding the evolution of computation as it applies to diagnosis, treatment, and adverse event prediction is of great importance. Therefore, the current review sought to synthesize findings from the literature at the interface of artificial intelligence and spine research.


A narrative review was performed based on the literature of three databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Scopus) from January 2015 to March 2021 that examined historical and recent advancements in the understanding of artificial intelligence and machine learning in spine research. Studies were appraised for their role in, or description of, advancements within image recognition and predictive modeling for spinal research. Only English articles that fulfilled inclusion criteria were ultimately incorporated in this review.


This review briefly summarizes the history and applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning in spine. Three basic machine learning training paradigms: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforced learning are also discussed. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been utilized in almost every facet of spine ranging from localization and segmentation techniques in spinal imaging to pathology specific algorithms which include but not limited to; preoperative risk assessment of postoperative complications, screening algorithms for patients at risk of osteoporosis and clustering analysis to identify subgroups within adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The future of artificial intelligence and machine learning in spine surgery is also discussed with focusing on novel algorithms, data collection techniques and increased utilization of automated systems.


Improvements to modern-day computing and accessibility to various imaging modalities allow for innovative discoveries that may arise, for example, from management. Given the imminent future of AI in spine surgery, it is of great importance that practitioners continue to inform themselves regarding AI, its goals, use, and progression. In the future, it will be critical for the spine specialist to be able to discern the utility of novel AI research, particularly as it continues to pervade facets of everyday spine surgery.

Read Full Article