Spondylolysis is a bony defect or fracture within the pars interarticularis of the vertebral arch in the spinal column. The vast majority of spondylolysis occur in the lumbar vertebral, however it can also be seen in cervical vertebrae.
The lumbar vertebra consist of a body, pedicle, lamina, pars interarticularis, transverse process, spinous process and superior and inferior articular facets, which form joints that link the vertebrae together. When examining the vertebra, separation of the pars interarticularis occurs when spondylolysis is present in the spinal column.
Spondylolysis is typically caused by a stress fracture of the bone, and is especially common in adolescents who over-train in activities. The pars interarticularis is vulnerable to fracture during spinal hyperextension, especially when combined with rotation, or when experiencing a force during a landing. This stress fracture most commonly occurs where the concave lumbar spine transitions to the convex sacrum (L5-S1). A significant number of individuals with spondylolysis will develop spondylolisthesis, which is true for 50-81% of this population.
Spondylolisthesis is the forward displacement of a vertebra, especially the fifth lumbar vertebra, most commonly occurring after a fracture. Spondylolysis is the most common cause of spondylolisthesis, which should not be confused with a spinal disc herniation.
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