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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Apazidis 2011.

Transitional vertebrae are a fairly common spinal deformity

updated
Apazidis A, Ricart PA, Diefenbach CM, Spivak JM. The prevalence of transitional vertebrae in the lumbar spine. Spine J. 2011 Sep;11(9):858–62. PubMed #21951610.
Tags: back pain, etiology, biology, surgery, biomechanics, pain problems, spine, pro, treatment

PainSci summary of Apazidis 2011?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

There is a fairly common spinal deformity, a “transitional vertebra,” in which the lowest vertebrae of the spine is partially merged with the sacrum. It is not quite a vertebra, and not quite sacrum — thus, “transitional.” This study looked at how common transitional vertebrae are, and if they correlate with low back pain. Not that we needed it, but the results give us yet more evidence that structure is nowhere near the most important factor in pain. Simply put, this study found that this common spinal deformity is not much more common in people with pain (maybe no more common at all): “Although LSTV's role in low back pain remains controversial, our study has shown that, when the same criteria are used for classification, prevalence among the general population and symptomatic patients may be similar.”

As always, this kind of finding is strongly at odds with an entire industry of therapy based on trying to fix subtle alleged biomechanical problems because they are supposedly painful. And yet here we have a vertebral birth defect that is found in pain-free people about as often as it is found in cases of back pain. Something is wrong with this picture.

original abstractAbstracts 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.

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Lumbosacral transitional vertebrae (LSTVs) are a congenital vertebral anomaly of the L5-S1 junction in the spine. This alteration may contribute to incorrect identification of a vertebral segment, leading to wrong-level spine surgery and poor correlation with clinical symptoms. Although several studies describe the occurrence of this anomaly in back pain populations, investigation of the prevalence in the American general population is lacking.

PURPOSE: To establish the prevalence rates for LSTVs in the general population.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective review.

PATIENT SAMPLE: Consecutive kidney-urinary bladder (KUB) radiographs of subjects from the past 2 years (2008-2009).

OUTCOME MEASURES: Clinical demographics, number of lumbar vertebrae, L5-S1 transverse process (TP) height, and rib length.

METHODS: Consecutive adult KUB studies of adult subjects were queried with clear visibility of the last rib's vertebral body articulation, all lumbar TPs, and complete sacral wings. Exclusion criteria consisted of any radiologic evidence of previous lumbosacral surgery that would obstruct our measurements. A total of 1,100 abdominal films were reviewed, and 211 were identified as being adequate for the measurement of the desired parameters.

RESULTS: Two hundred eleven subjects were identified as eligible for the study, and 75 (35.6%) were classified as positive for a transitional lumbosacral vertebra. The most common anatomical variant was the Castellvi Type IA (14.7%). The average age at the time of the KUB study was 59.8 years (18-95 years). One hundred ninety-seven subjects (93.4%) presented five lumbar (nonribbed) vertebrae, and only 14 (6.6%) had six lumbar vertebrae.

CONCLUSIONS: The significance of lumbosacral transitional level changes to the establishment of pain, degenerative changes, stenosis, and disc disease have been well documented in symptomatic patients. Although LSTV's role in low back pain remains controversial, our study has shown that, when the same criteria are used for classification, prevalence among the general population and symptomatic patients may be similar.

related content

These two articles on PainScience.com cite Apazidis 2011 as a source:


This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: