May 8, 2007

Pathology Tuesday!

I have decided to start a weekly feature about my research, since I suspect some of my faithful readers have little clue about what that entails. And since pathology is the way to hook undergraduates into thinking bones are awesome, I am introducing Pathology Tuesday, complete with a photo and explanation of something awesomely gross I discovered in the past week.

Spondylolysis - In the past week, I have found two instances of this condition, which is a fancy term for a stress fracture of a vertebra. Spondylolysis refers to the partial or complete separation of the arch of the vertebra (the part with all the projections) from the body of the vertebra (the thick, squareish part). Older individuals are more prone to this condition because their bones are generally weaker due to osteoporosis. A traumatic event can cause spondylolysis (such as a fall), but more commonly it is caused by repeated, low-grade stress in the lower back. An example from the cemetery population I am currently working with can be seen here:


This is the fifth or lowest lumbar vertebra from a male in his late 30s or early 40s. For the photo, I have separated the body from the inferior (lower) part of the arch so that you can see the remodelling that is occurring between the two pieces. The fact that the bone is smooth at the break line indicates this man lived for at least several years after the fracture. The bone fragments healed, so this man was probably able to return to his normal routine, albeit likely with some pain. In the present day, the people most commonly affected by spondylolysis are athletes, specifically gymnasts, weight lifters, and football players.

2 comments:

Trey said...

I think it's awesomely cool!

lara said...

Hey! I actually researched spondylolysis for my bone project research thea last year!

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