Lumbosacral transitional vertebrae alter the distribution of lumbar mobility-Preliminary results of a radiographic evaluation

PLoS One. 2022 Sep 29;17(9):e0274581. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274581. eCollection 2022.


Background: Lumbo-sacral transitional vertebrae (LSTV) are one of the most common congenital variances of the spine. They are associated with an increased frequency of degeneration in the cranial adjacent segment. Hypermobility and concomitant increased loads are discussed as a possible reason for segmental degeneration. We therefore examined the lumbar and segmental motion distribution in patients with LSTV with flexion-extension radiographs.

Methods: A retrospective study of 51 patients with osteochondrosis L5/S1 with flexion and extension radiographs was performed. Of these, 17 patients had LSTV and were matched 1:1 for age and sex with patients without LSTV out of the collective of the remaining 34 patients. The lumbar and segmental range of motion (RoM) by segmental lordosis angle and the segmental wedge angle were determined. Normal distribution of parameters was observed by Kolmogorov-Smirnov-test. Parametric data were compared by paired T-test. Non-parametric data were compared by Wilcoxon-rank-sum-test. Correlations were observed using Spearman's Rank correlation coefficient. A p-value <0.05 was stated as statistically significant.

Results: Patients with LSTV had mean age of 52.2±10.9, control group of 48.9±10.3. Both groups included 7 females and 10 males. Patients with LSTV presented with reduced RoM of the lumbar spine (LSTV 37.3°±19.2°, control 52.1°±20.5°, p = 0.065), however effects were statistically insignificant. LSTV significantly decreased segmental RoM in the transitional segment (LSTV 1.8°±2.7°, control 6.7°±6.0°, p = 0.003). Lumbar motion distribution differed significantly; while RoM was decreased in the transitional segment, (LSTV 5.7%, control 16.2%, p = 0.002), the distribution of lumbar motion to the cranial adjacent segment was increased (LSTV 30.7%, control 21.6%, p = 0.007).

Conclusion: Patients with LSTV show a reduced RoM in the transitional segment and a significantly increased motion distribution to the cranial adjacent segment in flexion-extension radiographs. The increased proportion of mobility in the cranial adjacent segment possibly explain the higher rates of degeneration within the segment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lordosis*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbosacral Region* / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull

Grants and funding

This study was financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG): PU 762/1-1 and SCHM 2572/13-1.