Relationship between facet tropism and facet joint degeneration in the sub-axial cervical spine

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Abstract

Background: Facet tropism is the angular asymmetry between the left and right facet joint orientation. Although debatable, facet tropism was suggested to be associated with disc degeneration, facet degeneration and degenerative spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between facet tropism and facet degeneration in the sub-axial cervical spine. Methods: A total of 200 patients with cervical spondylosis were retrospectively analyzed. Facet degeneration was categorized into 4 grade: grade I, normal; grade II, degenerative changes including joint space narrowing, cyst formation, small osteophytes (<3 mm) without joint hypertrophy; grade III, joint hypertrophy secondary to large osteophytes (>3 mm) without fusion of the joint; grade IV, bony fusion of the facet joints. Facet orientations and facet tropisms with respect to the transverse, sagittal and coronal plane were calculated from the reconstructed cervical spine, which was based on the axial CT scan images. The paired facet joints were then categorized into three types: symmetric, moderated tropism and severe tropism. Univariate and multivariate analysis were performed to evaluate the relationship between any demographic and anatomical factor and facet degeneration. Results: The mean age of enrolled patients was 46.23 years old (ranging from 30 to 64 years old). There were 114 males and 86 females. The degrees of facet degeneration varied according to cervical levels and ages. Degenerated facet joints were most common at C2-C3 level and more common in patients above 50 years old. The facet orientations were also different from level to level. By univariate analysis, genders, ages, cervical levels, facet orientations and facet tropisms were all significantly different between the normal facets and degenerated facets. However, results from multivariate logistic regression suggested only age and facet tropism with respect to the sagittal plane were related to facet degeneration. Conclusion: Facet degeneration were more common at C2-C3 level. Older age and facet tropism with respect to the sagittal plane were associated with the facet degeneration.

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Rong, X., Liu, Z., Wang, B., Pan, X., & Liu, H. (2017). Relationship between facet tropism and facet joint degeneration in the sub-axial cervical spine. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-017-1448-x

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