Paraplegic patients: how to measure balance and what is normal or functional?

Paraplegic patients: how to measure balance and what is normal or functional?

Kaku Barkoh, Joshua W. Lucas, Larry Lee, Patrick C. Hsieh, Jeffrey C. Wang, Kevin Rolfe

February 2018, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 109 - 114
First Online: 08 February 2018


To review the current understanding and data of sagittal balance and alignment considerations in paraplegic patients.


A PubMed literature search was conducted to identify all relevant articles relating to sagittal alignment and sagittal balance considerations in paraplegic and spinal cord injury patients.


While there are numerous studies and publications on sagittal balance in the ambulatory patient with spinal deformity or complex spine disorders, there is paucity of the literature on “normal” sagittal balance in the paraplegic patients. Studies have reported significantly alterations of the sagittal alignment parameters in the non-ambulatory paraplegic patients compared to ambulatory patients. The variability of the alignment changes is related to the differences in the level of the spinal cord injury and their differences in the activations of truncal muscles to allow functional movements in those patients, particularly in optimizing sitting and transferring. Surgical goal in treating paraplegic patients with complex pathologies should not be solely directed to achieve the “normal” radiographic parameters of sagittal alignment in the ambulatory patients. The goal should be to maintain good coronal balance to allow ideal sitting position and to preserve motion segment to optimize functions of paraplegia patients.


Current available literature data have not defined normal sagittal parameters for paraplegic patients. There are significant differences in postural sagittal parameters and muscle activations in paraplegic and non-spinal cord injury patients that can lead to differences in sagittal alignment and balance. Treatment goal in spine surgery for paraplegic patients should address their global function, sitting balance, and ability to perform self-care rather than the accepted radiographic parameters for adult spinal deformity in ambulatory patients.