Demographical aspects of Schmorl nodes: a skeletal study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009 Apr 20;34(9):E312-5. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181995fc5.


Study design: A descriptive study of the association between Schmorl nodes (SNs) and gender, ethnic origin, and age in a normal skeletal population.

Objectives: To gain reliable data on behavioral patterns of SNs in various human groups shedding light on its etiology.

Summary of background data: Opinions regarding SNs prevalence in human populations vary greatly (from 5% to 70%). This caveat greatly reduced our ability to recognize the etiology of the phenomenon and understand its clinical significance.

Methods: Two hundred forty human skeleton vertebrae (T4-L5) from a normal adult population (divided by gender, ethnicity, and age) were examined for SNs. SNs were defined as depressions with sclerotic margins appearing on the vertebral body surface.

Results: One hundred sixteen individuals (48.3%) of the 240 studied manifested SNs along their thoracolumbar spine. SNs are age independent and gender and ethnicity dependent, are significantly more common in males (54.2%) versus females (43%) and more common in European-Americans (60.3%) versus African-Americans (36.7%).

Conclusion: SNs are a common phenomenon in the normal adult populations with almost half of the individuals in our sample manifesting at least 1 vertebra with SN. Its demographic characteristics suggest that the phenomenon is not of occupational origin, promoting the notion of genetic background.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / ethnology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Museums
  • Observer Variation
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult