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The Facet Orientation of the Subaxial Cervical Spine and the Implications for Cervical Movements and Clinical Conditions

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Abstract

Study Design.

Computed tomography study.

Objective.

To obtain detailed information on the facet orientation in the subaxial cervical spine and explore the correlation to the cervical movements and relevant clinical conditions.

Summary of Background Data.

Although facet orientation was well studied in the lumbar spine, the literatures on the cervical facet orientation were limited and the descriptions were nonspecific.

Methods.

The computed tomography scans of 100 individuals were reconstructed. For each level from C2/C3 to C6/C7, the horizontal plane, the mid-sagittal plane, the coronal plane, and the two facet planes were established. The normal vectors of the five planes were used for the calculation of the facet orientation and the facet tropism.

Results.

The angle of the facet plane with respect to the horizontal plane at the C6/7 level was the largest (left side: 64.34° ± 6.60°, right side: 63.37° ± 6.81°, P >0.05). The angle of the facet plane with respect to the coronal plane decreased from C2/C3 level to C6/C7 level. Regarding the angle of the facet plane with respect to the sagittal plane, for the paired facet joints, three types were found: posteromedially oriented, posterolaterally oriented, and ipsilaterally oriented. All (100%) of the facet joints at the C2/C3 level and 65% at the C3/C4 level were posteromedially oriented. In the lower levels of the cervical spine, the posteromedially oriented facet joints were less common. The facet tropism was common phenomenon in the subaxial cervical spine.

Conclusion.

This study provided detailed information on the facet orientation in the subaxial cervical spine. The cervical facet orientation correlated well with the spinal movements and related clinical conditions.

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