• vertebral body;
  • vertebral shape;
  • vertebral wedging


This study was designed to characterize the vertebral body (VB) shape, focusing on vertebral wedging, along the thoracic and lumbar spine, and to look for shape variations with relation to gender, age, and ethnicity. All thoracic and lumbar (T1–L5) dissected vertebrae of 240 individuals were measured and analyzed by age, gender, and ethnicity. A 3D digitizer was used to measure all VB lengths, heights, and widths, and their ratios were calculated. This study showed that the VB size was independent of age or ethnicity. VB left lateral wedging was found in most vertebrae of most individuals, yet systematically was absent in six vertebrae (T4, T8–T9, T11, L3–L4) with a greater tendency in females than males (∼92% vs. 86%). The VB was anteriorly wedged from T1 through L2 (peak at T7), nonwedged at L3, and posteriorly wedged at L4–L5 (peak at L5). VB width decreased from T1 to T4 and then increased toward L4–L5, so that the spinal configuration in the coronal plane resembled two pyramids of opposite directions, sharing an apex at T4. The inferior VB width was significantly greater than the superior width of both the same vertebra and the adjacent lower vertebra, indicating a trapezoidal shape of the VB and an inverted trapezoidal shape of the intervertebral space. In conclusion, these findings indicate that the human vertebra, in its normal condition, maintains its external dimensions with age, independent of gender or ethnic origin. Clinical and surgical implications of the unique thoracolumbar architecture are discussed. Clin. Anat. 21:46–54, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.