Orientation and Osteoarthritis of the Lumbar Facet Joint

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Abstract

Several studies have shown an association between sagittal orientation of the facet joint and degenerative spondylolisthesis. There is currently no information available on the association between orientation of the facet joint and osteoarthritis. This study examined the association between orientation and osteoarthritis of the lumbar facet joints. One hundred eleven consecutive patients underwent plain radiography and magnetic resonance imaging. These patients were divided into two groups: No Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group (98 patients) and Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group (13 patients). In the No Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group, segments with higher grades of osteoarthritis showed more sagittal orientation of the facet joints at the L3–L4 and L4–L5 levels. The facet joint was oriented significantly more sagittally in the Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group than in the No Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group at the L4–L5 and L5–S1 levels. The severity of facet joint osteoarthritis was significantly higher in the Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group than in the No Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Group at the L3–L4, L4–L5, and L5–S1 levels. A significant association was found between sagittal orientation and osteoarthritis of the lumbar facet joints, even in patients without degenerative spondylolisthesis. Facet joint osteoarthritis, rather than spondylolisthesis, is the pathoanatomic feature that is associated with sagittal orientation of the facet joints in patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis.

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