The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The shape of the spinal canal and Schmorl’s Nodes: two-dimensional shape analysis of lower thoracic vertebrae


1Department of Anthropology, Durham University, 2Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Friday 9:45-10:00, Parlors Add to calendar

Two-dimensional statistical shape analysis was performed on digital images of the lower thoracic spine (T10-T12) of adult skeletons from the medieval collections of Fishergate House, St. Mary Graces, and East Smithfield Black Death cemeteries, and the post-medieval Chelsea Old Church cemetery. The aim of the study was to identify possible vertebral shape correlations with Schmorl’s nodes. Schmorl’s nodes are the result of a herniation of the nucleus pulposus into the adjacent vertebral body and are commonly identified in both clinical and archaeological situations. The lesions have been scored on a basis of severity and the location of the lesion was recorded. The size of the spinal canal has been associated with lower back pain, non-specific stress during growth, and age-related changes; the results of the current study indicate that the shape of the canal may be related to herniation of the intervertebral disc. Cross-validated DFA found an accuracy of 89% of identifying vertebrae with severe schmorl’s nodes from healthy based on the shape of the spinal canal. The results suggest that the shape difference may cause or result in disc herniation, and possibly represent a shape which predisposes an individual to the condition.

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