The purpose of this study was to devise a simple but reliable radiological method of identifying a lumbosacral transitional vertebra (LSTV) with a solid bony bridge on sagittal MRI, which could then be applied to a lateral radiograph.
The vertical mid-vertebral angle (VMVA) and the vertical anterior vertebral angle (VAVA) of the three most caudal segments of the lumbar spine were measured on MRI and/or on a lateral radiograph in 92 patients with a LSTV and 94 controls, and the differences per segment (Diff-VMVA and Diff-VAVA) were calculated. The Diff-VMVA of the two most caudal vertebrae was significantly higher in the control group (25° (sd 8) than in patients with a LSTV (type 2a+b: 16° (sd 9), type 3a+b: -9° (sd 10), type 4: -5° (sd 7); p < 0.001). A Diff-VMVA of ≤ +10° identified a LSTV with a solid bony bridge (type 3+4) with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 89% on MRI and a sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 74% on a lateral radiograph. A sensitivity of 100% could be achieved with a cut-off value of 28° for the Diff-VAVA, but with a lower specificity (76%) on MRI than with Diff-VMVA.
Using this simple method (Diff-VMVA ≤ +10°), solid bony bridging of the posterior elements of a LSTV, and therefore the first adjacent mobile segment, can be easily identified without the need for additional imaging.