Isthmitic spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine
ANATOMY OF THE SPINE
The human spine is formed by individual vertebrae and connective tissue discs in between. The vertebrae form the spinal canal. There are seven cervical, twelve thoracic, and five lumbar vertebrae. The intervertebral discs are the link between the individual vertebral bodies.
Normal anatomy of the spine. Longitudinal section and cross sections through the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.
The little joints that link the vertebrae together are known as facet joints. They help to stabilize the spine and, together with the intervertebral discs, allow a certain degree of mobility of the spinal cord. The spinal canal should be wide enough to allow nerve roots to float freely in cerebrospinal fluid.
The front border of the spinal canal is built by the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs, the side by the intervertebral joints (facets) and back by the ligamentum flavum (yellow band) and vertebral arches. Discs consist of an outer fibrous ring (annulus fibrosus), which surrounds an inner gel-like center (nucleus pulposus).
The spinal cord and nerve roots lie within the spinal canal. The spinal cord extends downwards approx. to the 1st lumbar vertebra. Below, only nerve roots are present in the spinal canal. At the level of the intervertebral disc the nerve roots pass through the neural root foramina to exit the spinal canal. The spinal cord and nerve roots conduct electric-like signals from the skin and joints to the brain, and process of movement is initiated from the brain to the muscles.
Isthmic spondylolisthesis is a vertebral slip most common in the lumbar spine, caused by an aquired defect (fracture due to microtrauma) of the bone connecting the upper and lower intervertebral joints called pars interarticularis. It occurs in about 5% of people. In most cases spondylolisthesis does not cause symptoms.
CAUSE OF SYMPTOMS
Gradually progressing compression of one or more lumbar nerve roots in the recessus/root canal
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
Tingling, shooting pain or muscle weakness (paresis) of one or both legs
THE DIAGNOSIS IS BASED ON Medical history Clinical exam
and at least one of the following tests: Computer tomography Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
additionally you may have to do: Functional (dynamic) radiographs
In asymptomatic cases no treatment or followup is reqired
Non-surgical treatment may include Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Immobilization with brace
WHEN SHOULD AN OPERATION BE PERFORMED?
Because of the gradual worsening of the symptoms almost always surgery is required. Due to the chronic progressive nature of the disease an emergency operation is rarely necessary.
Elective surgery should be considered when compression of a nerve root causes a significant muscle weakness (>72 hours) is present or the symptoms (e.g. pain) impair the patient’s quality of life and conservative treatment fails to achieve significant improvement within 6-8 weeks.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF SURGERY?
To release the compressed nerve roots
To improve symptoms (e.g. pain reduction)
To stop the worsening of the symptoms
To preserve the protective function of the spine
HOW IS SURGERY PERFORMED?
Posterior decompression of the spinal canal + fusion
WHICH OTHER DISEASES SHOULD BE EXCLUDED (DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS)? Degenerative spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine
The condition is treated by medical spetialists in the field of: learn more ...