Introduction: To determine the prevalence and significance of superficial abdominal reflexes in patients with spinal deformity.
Methods: Since 1990, three thousand four hundred and one consecutive patients with spinal deformity underwent physical examination in our clinic. Bilateral absent reflexes or asymmetric reflexes were regarded as “abnormal”. MRI was performed on most of the patients who needed surgical intervention and showed abnormal symptoms and/or atypical curve patterns, or abnormal neurological findings.
Results: Three hundred seventy‐four (11%) patients exhibited superficial abdominal reflex abnormalities. One hundred ninety‐two patients (51%) had bilaterally absent abdominal reflex. Others (49%) had asymmetric reflexes. MRI demonstrated Chiari malformations in 38 patients (10%). Of the 38 with Chari malformation, 31 patients (82%) had asymmetric reflexes. The other seven patients with Chiari malformation had bilaterally absent reflexes. Of the 182 patients who exhibited asymmetrical abdominal reflexes, 151 had no Chiari malformations. Only 7 of 192 patients (4%) who showed bilaterally absent reflexes had Chiari malformations.
Conclusion: Superficial abdominal reflex was a useful indicator of underlying cord abnormalities, such as Chiari malformations and/or syringomyelia, although further analysis of the reliability of these results needs to be done.