Anatomic considerations for anterior instrumentation of the lumbar spine

Orthopedics. 1999 Oct;22(10):935-9. doi: 10.3928/0147-7447-19991001-10.


One hundred seventy lumbar vertebrae from L1-L4 were used to quantitatively evaluate the lumbar vertebral body and examine the relationship of the maximum posterior angles of screw placement to the spinal canal. Anatomic evaluation included dimensions of the vertebral body. Three entrance points on the lateral aspect of the vertebral body for screw insertion and an additional point 3 mm from the posterolateral corner of the spinal canal were defined and marked. The maximum posterior screw angles were determined as the angles between the line connecting the entrance point with the additional point and the coronal plane. Results showed that vertebral body dimensions increased from L1-L4. The average vertebral body depth, width, and height were approximately 26 mm, 36 mm, and 22 mm at L1, and 30 mm, 44 mm, and 23 mm at L4, respectively. The spinal canal may be penetrated if the screws are directed posteriorly 2 degrees-5 degrees at L1 - L2 and 9 degrees - 14 degrees at L3-L4 starting at the junction between the pedicle and vertebral body, 22 degrees - 32 degrees at L1-L4 from the level of 10 mm anterior to the junction, and 43 degrees -50 degrees from the level of 20 mm anterior to the junction. Therefore, mid-body screws should be directed perpendicular to the lateral plane of the vertebral body. For a more anteriorly placed screw, slightly posterior angulation is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Screws*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology*
  • Male