Study Design. Computer tomography scans were used to asses the opening of the sacral canal.
Objective. We investigated the prevalence of sacral spina bifida occulta in 2 population groups: born 1940 to 1950 and 1980 to 1990.
Summary of Background Data. Comparison of the prevalence of spina bifida occulta in the first-century Pompeii with that in 20th century European and Mediterranean populations indicates that the degree of the closure of vertebral arches in the sacrum has undergone changes and the prevalence of spina bifida occulta is increasing.
Methods. Transverse computer tomograph scans and multiplanar reconstruction images of sacra of 100 males and 100 females born 1940 to 1950 and 100 males and 100 females born 1980 to 1990 were used after ethics committee approval.
Results. The individuals born later have significantly more open sacral arches when compared with those born 40 years earlier, especially in the midsacral region. Also, males have open sacral arches in the rostral segments of the sacrum more than females.
Conclusion. This study demonstrates a secular trend in the opening of the sacral canal in both sexes that occurred within 2 generations. Also, the increased prevalence of open sacral canal in males suggests a different response between sexes to the forces of evolution.