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Isolated Spinous Process Deviation: A Pitfall in the Interpretation of AP Radiographs of the Lumbar Spine

VAN SCHAIK, JAN P. J., MD*; VERBIEST, HENK, MD; VAN SCHAIK, FRANS D. J., MA

Original Article: PDF Only

A new type of spinous process deviation is described. This variant may cause confusion in the interpretation of anteroposterior (AP) radiographs of the lumbar spine. In the literature, two types of lumbar spinous process deviation (SPD) have been described: 1) SPD due to rotation of the entire vertebra (as in rotatory scoliosis and degenerative arthritis), and 2) SPD as a consequence of developmental asymmetries of the neural arch. The present study demonstrates that spinous process deviation in the AP radiograph is not a reliable diagnostic guide. The authors' quantitative morphologic analysis of computed tomographlc (CT) sections of over 200 lower lumbar vertebrae in vivo revealed a third type of SPD, namely isolated deviation of the spinous process, le, deviation without any associated rotation or asymmetry of the vertebral body or arch. Since the oval shadow cast by the spinous process In AP radiographs is caused by its tip, rather than by its base (as was demonstrated by in vitro tests), it is concluded that the position of the spinous process shadow in AP radiographs cannot be used as a reliable landmark to differentiate between the three types of SPD. This Is only possible by means of a examination.

*From the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University Hospital Utrecht, the Netherlands

†From the Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Utrecht, the Netherlands

‡From the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Delft, the Netherlands

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.