Journal Contents   |    
Osteophytes of the Vertebral Column An Anatomical Study of Their Development According to Age, Race, and Sex with Considerations as to Their Etiology and Significance
Hilel Nathan
View Disclosures and Other Information
Department of Anatomy, The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem
1962 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 1962 Mar 01;44(2):243-268
5 Recommendations (Recommend) | 3 Comments | Saved by 3 Users Save Case


A series of 400 vertebral columns of whites and Negroes of both sexes and of various ages were examined for the presence of osteophytes. These were classified according to four degrees of development. Osteophytes were first found in the twenties, and the proportion of affected spines increased directly thereafter. In the forties, 100 per cent of skeletons showed first-degree osteophytes. The other degrees of osteophytes were found in 100 per cent of skeletons of people who were over eighty years of age. The distribution of the osteophytes in the different regions of the spine, as well as their localization on each vertebral body, was found to follow characteristic patterns. The most outstanding features of these patterns were:

1. The incidence of osteophytes is greater on the anterior aspect than on the posterior aspect of the vertebral body.

2. Anterior or posterior osteophytes tend to develop more in the concavities of the normal vertebral column or within the concavities of scoliosis or kyphosis.

3. Peaks of regional distribution are seen and are related to the normal curvatures of the vertebral column and to the line of gravity crossing them. The presence of osteophytes on the superior or inferior borders of the vertebrae is also related to the spinal curvatures.

These findings indicate that osteophytes tend to appear more where pressure is greatest. This leads to the concept that osteophytes develop as a defense mechanism in response to pressure. Further support for this theory is provided by the fact that osteophytes are composed of more compact, stronger bone than the rest of the vertebral body and by the fact that the form and position of the osteophytes on the vertebral body resemble the capitals and bases of pillars designed by architects to increase the resistance of these pillars to compression. The thoracic spine is characterized especially by the predominance of osteophytes on the right side, a distribution caused by the aorta which runs down on the left. This general pattern of development of osteophytes is similar in all the race and sex groups examined. However, some differences are found: In anterior osteophytes, whites of both sexes show a greater incidence than Negroes, but the difference is not significant; whereas males of both races show a greater prevalence than females, the difference being statistically significant. Regarding posterior osteophytes, a significantly higher incidence is found in whites of both sexes; the slightly higher incidence in males than in females of both races was found to be non-significant.

The soft tissues into which osteophytes may grow and the different pathological conditions which may be produced by osteophytes pressing on viscera related to the vertebral column are reviewed.

Figures in this Article
    This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.
    Sign In to Your Personal ProfileSign In To Access Full Content
    Not a Subscriber?
    Get online access for 30 days for $35
    New to JBJS?
    Sign up for a full subscription to both the print and online editions
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities, to comment on public articles, or to sign up for alerts.
    Register for a FREE limited account to get full access to all CME activities
    Have a subscription to the print edition?
    Current subscribers to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery in either the print or quarterly DVD formats receive free online access to JBJS.org.
    Forgot your password?
    Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.

    Forgot your username or need assistance? Please contact customer service at subs@jbjs.org. If your access is provided
    by your institution, please contact you librarian or administrator for username and password information. Institutional
    administrators, to reset your institution's master username or password, please contact subs@jbjs.org


    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
    CME Activities Associated with This Article
    Submit a Comment
    Please read the other comments before you post yours. Contributors must reveal any conflict of interest.
    Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discretion of JBJS editorial staff.

    * = Required Field
    (if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
    Example: John Doe

    Related Content
    The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery
    JBJS Case Connector
    Topic Collections
    Related Audio and Videos
    Clinical Trials
    Readers of This Also Read...
    JBJS Jobs
    Louisiana - Ochsner Health System
    S. Carolina - Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Medical Univerity of South Carlonina
    Oklahoma - The University of Oklahoma
    Pennsylvania - Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center