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Sometimes the sacrum is fused to the lowest lumbar vertebra: a lumbosacral transition vertebra. “LSTV is the most common congenital anomaly of the lumbosacral spine.” In about a thousand patients studied, it was about twice as common in patients who had sought spinal surgery as it was in patients with no spinal complaint (about 14-16% of patients, instead of 8%). The study also identified a “definite causal relationship” with degeneration of the disc above the LSTV.
original abstract†Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of radiological images.
PURPOSE: To determine the prevalence of lumbosacral transition vertebra (LSTV) and to study its significance with respect to clinically significant spinal symptoms, disc degeneration and herniation.
OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE: LSTV is the most common congenital anomaly of the lumbosacral spine. The prevalence has been debated to vary between 7% and 30%, and its relationship to back pain, disc degeneration and herniation has also not been established.
METHODS: The study involved examining the radiological images of 3 groups of patients. Group A consisted of kidney urinary bladder (KUB) X-rays of patients attending urology outpatient clinic. Group B consisted of X-rays with or without magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of patients at-tending a spine outpatient clinic, and group C consisted of X-rays and MRI of patients who had undergone surgery for lumbar disc herniation. One thousand patients meeting the inclusion criteria were selected to be in each group. LSTV was classified by Castellvi's classification and disc degeneration was assessed by Pfirrmann's grading on MRI scans.
RESULTS: The prevalence of LSTV among urology outpatients, spine outpatients and discectomy patients was 8.1%, 14%, and 16.9% respectively. LSTV patients showed a higher Pfirrmann's grade of degeneration of the last mobile disc. Results were found to be significant statistically.
CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of LSTV in spinal outpatients and discectomy patients was significantly higher as compared to those attending the urology outpatient clinic. There was a definite causal relationship between the transitional vertebra and the degeneration of the disc immediately cephalad to it.
- “The prevalence of transitional vertebrae in the lumbar spine,” Alexios Apazidis, Pedro A Ricart, Christopher M Diefenbach, and Jeffrey M Spivak, Spine J, 2011.
These two articles on PainScience.com cite Sekharappa 2014 as a source:
- PS Save Yourself from Low Back Pain! — Low back pain myths debunked and all your treatment options reviewed
- PS You Might Just Be Weird — The clinical significance of normal — and not so normal — anatomical variations
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