Vertebral morphology influences the development of Schmorl's nodes in the lower thoracic vertebrae

Authors

  • Kimberly A. Plomp,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
    2. Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
    • Department of Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Durham University, Dawson Building, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
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  • Charlotte A. Roberts,

    1. Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
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  • Una Strand Viðarsdóttir

    1. Department of Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
    2. Biomedical Center, University of Iceland, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland
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Abstract

Schmorl's nodes are the result of herniations of the nucleus pulposus into the adjacent vertebral body and are commonly identified in both clinical and archaeological contexts. The current study aims to identify aspects of vertebral shape that correlate with Schmorl's nodes. Two-dimensional statistical shape analysis was performed on digital images of the lower thoracic spine (T10–T12) of adult skeletons from the late medieval skeletal assemblages from Fishergate House, York, St. Mary Graces and East Smithfield Black Death cemeteries, London, and postmedieval Chelsea Old Church, London. Schmorl's nodes were scored on the basis of their location, depth, and size. Results indicate that there is a correlation between the shape of the posterior margin of the vertebral body and pedicles and the presence of Schmorl's nodes in the lower thoracic spine. The size of the vertebral body in males was also found to correlate with the lesions. Vertebral shape differences associated with the macroscopic characteristics of Schmorl's nodes, indicating severity of the lesion, were also analyzed. The shape of the pedicles and the posterior margin of the vertebral body, along with a larger vertebral body size in males, have a strong association with both the presence and severity of Schmorl's nodes. This suggests that shape and/or size of these vertebral components are predisposing to, or resulting in, vertically directed disc herniation. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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