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Spondylolysis


Spondylolysis is a stress fracture of vertebra that may progress into spondylolisthesis, a condition of displacement of vertebrae from the spinal column. Spondylolysis is the cause for frequent low back pain in children. It is more common among children and teenagers who participate actively in sports such as football, weightlifting and gymnastics.

Causes

Spondylolysis occurs as a result of a defect or stress fracture in the pars interarticularis, the part of the lumbar spine joining the upper and lower joints. Genetic factors may have a role. Children born with thin vertebra are prone to vertebral stress fractures. Also, repetitive trauma to the lower back area that occurs during sports and other activities can cause weakness of the pars interarticularis, resulting in spondylolysis.

Symptoms

Although initially the patient may not have any symptoms, lower back pain is apparent during the teenage growth spurt period. The pain worsens with vigorous physical activities and exercises. At times, the pain may feel similar to a muscle strain.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing spondylolysis include:

Complications

Untreated spondylolysis may lead to further complications including:

Diagnosis

Your surgeon diagnoses spondylolysis by asking several questions and performing several tests that includes:

Treatment

Primary treatment for spondylolysis is always conservative. The goal of the conservative treatment is to reduce the pain, allow the fracture to heal and improve the function.

Conservative treatment options include:

Surgical treatment

Surgery is usually required if spondylolysis progressed into spondylolisthesis. The goal of the surgery is to remove any abnormal bone compressing a nerve and to stabilize the spine.

Decompressive Laminectomy & Spinal Fusion: In this procedure a portion of the bone or lamina imparting pressure on the nerves is removed. A surgical incision is made in the back, then part of the bone and thickened tissue pressing on the spinal nerves is removed. This allows more space for the nerves thus relieving pain and pressure. This procedure makes the spine unstable and therefore spinal fusion will be performed to stabilize the spine.

Spinal fusion is the procedure of joining two adjacent vertebrae. During the procedure a piece of bone, taken from elsewhere in the body or donated from a bone bank, is transplanted between the adjacent vertebrae. As healing occurs, the transplanted bone fuses with the spine. This stimulates growth of a solid mass of bone which helps to stabilize the spine. In some cases, metal implants such as rods, hooks, wires, plates or screws are used to hold the vertebra firm until the new bone grows between them.

Prevention

Although spondylolysis is not completely preventable, certain factors can reduce the risk of developing the condition: