Automating Scoliosis Measurements in Radiographic Studies with Machine Learning: Comparing Artificial Intelligence and Clinical Reports

Audrey Y. Ha, Bao H. Do, Adam L. Bartret, Charles X. Fang, Albert Hsiao, Amelie M. Lutz, Imon Banerjee, Geoffrey M. Riley, Daniel L. Rubin, Kathryn J. Stevens, Erin Wang, Shannon Wang, Christopher F. Beaulieu, Brian Hurt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scoliosis is a condition of abnormal lateral spinal curvature affecting an estimated 2 to 3% of the US population, or seven million people. The Cobb angle is the standard measurement of spinal curvature in scoliosis but is known to have high interobserver and intraobserver variability. Thus, the objective of this study was to build and validate a system for automatic quantitative evaluation of the Cobb angle and to compare AI generated and human reports in the clinical setting. After IRB was obtained, we retrospectively collected 2150 frontal view scoliosis radiographs at a tertiary referral center (January 1, 2019, to January 1, 2021, ≥ 16 years old, no hardware). The dataset was partitioned into 1505 train (70%), 215 validation (10%), and 430 test images (20%). All thoracic and lumbar vertebral bodies were segmented with bounding boxes, generating approximately 36,550 object annotations that were used to train a Faster R-CNN Resnet-101 object detection model. A controller algorithm was written to localize vertebral centroid coordinates and derive the Cobb properties (angle and endplate) of dominant and secondary curves. AI-derived Cobb angle measurements were compared to the clinical report measurements, and the Spearman rank-order demonstrated significant correlation (0.89, p < 0.001). Mean difference between AI and clinical report angle measurements was 7.34° (95% CI: 5.90–8.78°), which is similar to published literature (up to 10°). We demonstrate the feasibility of an AI system to automate measurement of level-by-level spinal angulation with performance comparable to radiologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-533
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Digital Imaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cobb angle
  • Convolutional neural network
  • Deep learning
  • Scoliosis
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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