Lumbar spondylolysis: Reactive marrow changes seen in adjacent pedicles on MR images

J. L. Ulmer, A. D. Elster, V. P. Mathews, A. M. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. In a search for ancillary MR findings for the diagnosis of spondylolysis, we performed a retrospective study to characterize changes in MR signal intensity of marrow within lumbar pedicles at the level of a spondylolytic defect. These reactive marrow changes were classified according to the anatomic-pathologic scheme developed for degenerative disk disease by Modic et al. MATERIALS AND METHODS. Two neuroradiologists retrospectively reviewed MR images of 60 patients with lumbar spondylolysis confirmed by conventional radiography or CT. The MR signal of each pedicle at the level of a pars defect was compared on T1- and T2-weighted sagittal images to that at the next higher level. When both observers concurred that the signal of the involved pedicle differed significantly from that of its neighbor, this signal change was classified into one of three types (type I: hypointense on T1-weighted images, hyperintense on T2-weighted images; type II: hyperintense on T1-weighted images, isointense or hyperintense on T2-weighted images; type III: hypointense on both T1- and T2-weighted images). RESULTS. Changes in MR signal intensity of pedicles adjacent to spondylolytic defects were observed in 24 (40%) of the 60 patients. Type I changes were seen in three patients, all less than 24 years old. Type II changes were seen in 17 patients with a median age of 35 years. Type III changes were seen in four patients with a median age of 51 years. The distribution of changes in signal intensity in the pedicle as a function of age was significant (p = .001). CONCLUSION. Categories of changes in MR signal intensity, similar to those described adjacent to degenerating disks, can be seen in lumbar pedicles adjacent to a spondylolytic defect of the pars interarticularis and are distributed as a function of age. Awareness of this finding may aid in establishing the correct diagnosis of spondylolysis on MR imaging and prevent erroneous interpretation of abnormal signal intensity in the pedicles in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-433
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995


Dive into the research topics of 'Lumbar spondylolysis: Reactive marrow changes seen in adjacent pedicles on MR images'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this