In this study a new reference value, 'corrected vertebral dimension,' is presented for vertebral height measurements. Of 68 females (age 18-88 years; mean 44.2 years) and 40 males (age 16-81 years; mean 55 years) the projected vertebral dimensions (T4-L5) were measured on lateral radiographs. In addition to this study, the vertebra-to-film distances (VFD) were measured and a fixed focus-to-film distance (FFD) was used during the study. Corrected dimensions of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae (T4-L5) were calculated using the FFD and VFD. These corrected dimensions were then used to recalculate projected vertebral dimensions at different focus-to-film distances. The applied geometric corrections were verified in a phantom study representing an in vitro situation. The results indicate that studies using different X-ray techniques for making lateral radiographs of the spine can become comparable when using corrected vertebral dimensions.