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SICOT J. 2017;3:71. doi: 10.1051/sicotj/2017055. Epub 2017 Dec 12.

Symptomatic lumbosacral transitional vertebra: a review of the current literature and clinical outcomes following steroid injection or surgical intervention.

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Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.


Bertolotti's syndrome (BS) refers to the possible association between the congenital malformation lumbosacral transitional vertebra (LSTV), and low back pain (LBP). Several treatments have been proposed including steroid injections, resections of the LSTV, laminectomy, and lumbar spinal fusion. The aim of this review was to compare the clinical outcomes in previous trials and case reports for these treatments in patients with LBP and LSTV. A PubMed search was conducted. We included English studies of patients diagnosed with LSTV treated with steroid injection, laminectomy, spinal fusion or resection of the transitional articulation. Of 272 articles reviewed 20 articles met the inclusion criteria. Their level of evidence were graded I-V and the clinical outcomes were evaluated. Only 1 study had high evidence level (II). The remainders were case series (level IV). Only 5 studies used validated clinical outcome measures. A total of 79 patients were reported: 31 received treatment with steroid injections, 33 were treated with surgical resection of the LSTV, 8 received lumbar spinal fusion, and 7 cases were treated with laminectomy. Surgical management seems to improve the patient's symptoms, especially patients diagnosed with "far out syndrome" treated with laminectomy. Clinical outcomes were more heterogenetic for patient's treated with steroid injections. The literature regarding BS is sparse and generally with low evidence. Non-surgical management (e.g., steroid injections) and surgical intervention could not directly be compared due to lack of standardization in clinical outcome. Generally, surgical management seems to improve patient's clinical outcome over time, whereas steroid injection only improves the patient's symptoms temporarily. Further studies with larger sample size and higher evidence are warranted for the clinical guidance in the treatment of BS.

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