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Inheritance and spondylolisthesis: a radiographic family survey

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A radiographic suvey has been carried out of 147 first-degree relatives of forty-seven patients treated in Edinburgh for spondylolisthesis of the fifth lumbar vertebra; twelve patients had the dysplastic (congenital) type and thirty-five an isthmic defect. The survey identified 19 per cent of relatives with spondylolysis, and index patients with each type of spondylolisthesis had relatives with the opposite type. Index patients with the dysplastic form had a higher proportion of affected relatives (33 per cent) than had those with the isthmic type (15 per cent), but both figures were significantly in excess of the estimated frequency for the general population of under 1 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Spina bifida occulta at the fifth lumbar or first sacral level or both, and lumbosacral segmental defects were commoner amongst all individuals with spondylolysis than amongst unaffected relatives (dysplastic form 94 per cent, isthmic type 32 per cent, unaffected relatives 7 per cent). However, there was no single instance of a neural tube defect (anencephaly, spina bifida with or without meningocele, other generalised vertebral anomalies or spinal dysraphism) amongst 826 first-, second- or third-degree relatives. It is concluded that the developmental defects of the vertebrae associated with spondylolysis are not aetiologically related to the neural tube defects. The one in three risk of spondylolysis to near relatives of patients with the dysplastic form of spondylolisthesis is emphasised in order that the deformity in their sibs and children can be recognised at any early age.

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