Thoracic kyphosis tends to increase with age. Hyperkyphosis is defined as excessive curvature of the thoracic spine and may be associated with adverse health effects. Hyperkyphosis in isolation or as a component of degenerative kyphoscoliosis has important implications for the surgical management of adult spinal deformity. Our objective was to review the literature on the epidemiology, etiology, natural history, management, and outcomes of thoracic hyperkyphosis. We performed a narrative review of literature on thoracic hyperkyphosis and its implications for adult spinal deformity surgery. Hyperkyphosis has a prevalence of 20% to 40% and is more common in the geriatric population. The cause is multifactorial and involves an interaction between degenerative changes, vertebral compression fractures, muscular weakness, and altered biomechanics. It may be associated with adverse health consequences including impaired physical function, pain and disability, impaired pulmonary function, and increased mortality. Nonoperative management may slow the progression of kyphosis and improve function. Surgery is rarely performed for isolated hyperkyphosis in the elderly due to the associated risk, but is an option when kyphosis occurs in the context of significant deformity. In this scenario, increased thoracic kyphosis influences selection of fusion levels and overall surgical planning. Kyphosis is common in older individuals and is associated with adverse health effects and increased mortality. Current evidence suggests a role for nonoperative therapies in reducing kyphosis and delaying its progression. Isolated hyperkyphosis in the elderly is rarely treated surgically; however, increased thoracic kyphosis as a component of global spinal deformity has important implications for patient selection and operative planning.
AOSpine: The Aging Spine is online and full-text access is free.