Bertolotti’s syndrome revisited: Transitional vertebrae of the lumbar spine

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Bertoiotti’s syndrome refers to the association of back pain with lumbosacral transitional vertebrae. Such vertebrae were observed in 140 of 2,000 adults with back pain over a 4-year period of study. Each patient had radiographic evaluation of the lumbar spine by plain films as well as a sectional imaging modality (magnetic resonance [MR] or computed tomography [CT]). The overall incidence of structural pathology (eg, spinal stenosis and disc protrusion) detected by CT or MR was not apparently higher in patients with transitional vertebrae, but the distribution of these lesions was significantly different. Disc bulge or herniation, when it occurred, was nearly nine times more common at the interspace immediately above the transitional vertebra than at any other level. Spinal stenosis and nerve root canal stenosis were more common at òr near the interspace above the transitional vertebra than at any other level. Degenerative change at the articulation between the transverse process of the transitionál vertebra and the pelvis was an uncommon occurrence; when seen there was no significant correlation with the reported side of pain. It is postulated that hypermobility and altered stresses become concentrated in thè spine at the level immediatèly above a lumbar transitional vertebra. Accelerated disc and facet joint degeneration at this level may then result.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1377
Number of pages5
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1989


  • Intervertebral disc protrusion
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spine-MR studies
  • Spjne-CT
  • Transitional vertebra


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