Objective The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences between spinal metastasis and osteoporotic compression fractures on plain X-ray images, focusing on asymmetrical vertebral collapse and fracture level. Materials and methods This study included 180 patients with pathological collapse from spinal metastasis (188 vertebrae) who were treated at our institution and 70 patients (92 vertebrae) with osteoporotic compression fractures. Anteroposterior X-ray images of the lower thoracic and lumbar spine were evaluated for asymmetrical collapse deformity. Results Asymmetrical collapse was found in 134 vertebrae (71.3%) with metastasis, and in 20 osteoporotic vertebrae (21.7%); this difference was significant (p < 0.0001). The asymmetrical collapse angle in spinal metastasis patients ranged from 0 to 18°, with a mean of 7.0 and a standard deviation (SD) of 4.5. In contrast, the asymmetrical collapse angle in patients with osteoporotic fractures ranged from 0 to 13°, with a mean of 3.1 and a SD of 2.8. The difference in collapse angle between the two groups was statistically significant (p < 0.001). The cutoff value to suspect spinal metastasis was determined to be 5° or more (sensitivity 0.67, specificity 0.74). Fracture at Th10 or below L3 was found in 20.2% of spinal metastasis patients; only 3% of osteoporotic fractures occurred at these levels. Conclusion Asymmetrical collapse with an angle of 5° or more and fractures at atypical levels on plain radiographs can be useful clues to spinal metastasis.
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