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Union evaluation of lumbar spondylolysis using MRI and CT in adolescents treated conservatively.

BACKGROUND: This study evaluated the union rate of acute lumbar spondylolysis in patients treated conservatively, according to the protocol.

METHODS: The subjects included high school students and younger patients who were diagnosed with lumbar spondylolysis presenting bone marrow edema. We investigated the union rate, the period until union, unilateral or bilateral, vertebral level, laterality (right or left), and pathological stage at the first visit. Some unilateral cases included bilateral spondylolysis with contralateral pseudarthrotic lesion; therefore, the union rate of the "true" unilateral case in which the contralateral side was normal was calculated. We excluded multi-level lesions.

RESULTS: With conservative treatment for lumbar spondylolysis of 189 lesions in 142 cases, 144 healed and 45 were considered as nonunion. The average treatment period until union was 106 days. The union of "true" unilateral cases in which the contralateral side was normal was noted in 68/71 lesions, but that of bilateral cases was noted in 71/94 lesions. The union in L3, L4, and L5 vertebrae was noted in 15/17, 40/49, and 89/123 lesions, respectively. The union was observed in 63/87 on the right and 86/102 on the left. The union was noted in the pre-lysis, early, and progressive stages in 36/39, 81/97, and 27/53 lesions, respectively. Furthermore, the union was noted in stages 0, 1a, 1b, 1c, and 2 in 13/15, 47/52, 30/36, 34/42, and 20/44 lesions, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Accurate union evaluation using CT and MRI showed a union rate of 76% with conservative treatment for spondylolysis. The union rate of the "true" unilateral cases in which the contralateral side was normal was 96%, which was significantly higher than that of the bilateral cases. Moreover, the union rate of lesions in the axial progressive stage and sagittal stage 2 was significantly lower than that of lesions in other stages.

STUDY DESIGN: clinical retrospective study.

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