Spondylolisthesis

Definition of Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a bone (vertebra) in the lower part of the spine slips out of the proper position onto the bone below it.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

In children, spondylolisthesis usually occurs between the fifth bone in the lower back (lumbar vertebra) and the first bone in the sacrum (pelvis) area. It is often due to a birth defect in that area of the spine or sudden injury (acute trauma).

Symptoms

Spondylolisthesis may vary from mild to severe. A person with spondylolisthesis may have no symptoms.

Signs and tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam. A straight leg raise may be uncomfortable or painful.

Treatment

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. Most patients get better with strengthening and stretching exercises combined with activity modification, which involves avoiding hyperextension of the back and contact sports.

Expectations (prognosis)

Conservative therapy for mild spondylolisthesis is successful in about 80% of cases.

Review

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/28/2010

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.