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Spine J. 2010 Jul;10(7):616-21. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2010.05.003.

Morphometric analysis and identification of characteristic features in sacra bearing accessory articulations with L5 vertebrae.

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Department of Anatomy, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (SAIMS), Bhawrasala, Indore, Madhya Pradesh 452 010, India.



Occurrence of transitional vertebrae at the lumbosacral junction, especially accessory lumbosacral articulations (partial sacralization of the L5 vertebrae), is not uncommon. These transitional states are frequently associated with low back pain situations requiring surgical intervention.


The study aimed to investigate the presence of distinct morphological features and structural peculiarities associated with these sacra. The features related to sacra bearing L5-S1 transitions might be significantly different from those of the normal sacra. This study tries to understand whether accessory L5-S1 articulations demonstrate altered mechanisms of load transfer as a result of structural changes at the L5-S1 junction.


Morphometric measurements of several linear dimensions and articular areas were obtained from 332 sacra. Thirty sacra demonstrated unilateral accessory facets on their ala. Twelve sacra showed bilateral accessory lumbosacral articulations. Indices were calculated based on the linear dimensions and on the surface areas of the bones to detect proportional contributions of the dimensions and surface areas to the overall structure of all the sacra.


All the parameters obtained from the transitional sacra were compared with the same parameters worked out on 290 normal sacra. All parameters in the sacra bearing accessory articulations were statistically compared with parameters in the normal sacra.


Seven linear dimensions and five surface areas were measured in 290 normal sacra. Thirty sacra bearing unilateral accessory articular facets and 12 sacra with bilateral accessory facets on their alae were measured for the same linear parameters and surface areas. Nine indices were calculated from these measurements in both the normal and transitional sacra and statistically verified.


Analysis of the results indicated that sacra bearing accessory articulations, in comparison to the normal, carried their auricular surfaces at a higher level; possessed load bearing features mainly confined to the two upper sacral segments; showed lesser distances between the facet joints; showed smaller distance of the coronal plane of the facet joints from the posterior aspect of the S1 vertebral body; exhibited smaller and more coronally oriented facet joint surfaces; and exhibited smaller body width and height. The auricular surface area and superior surface of the body of S1 in these "transitional" sacra were similar in comparison to normal sacra. Linear dimensions in sacra with bilateral accessory articulations were smaller than the ones having unilateral accessory L5-S1 articulations.


Lumbosacral accessory articulations constituted the bulk of transitional variations at the junction. Accessory articulations were unilateral (9%) and bilateral (3%) with a total of 12% of all studied samples (n=332) demonstrating this type L5-S1 transition. Sacra with lumbosacral pseudoarticulations were associated with different anatomical features in contrast to normal sacra. Analysis of these structural differences with the normal variants may possibly help in understanding the biomechanical properties at these transitional sites. Evaluation of the relative proportions of dimensions within these bones may help plan surgical interventions or probably predict the pattern of abnormal weight bearing in these sacra.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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