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Flashcards in Vertebral Column Deck (38):

How many bones make up the vertebral column?



Describe the gross functions of the vertebral column.

Centre of gravity
Attachment for bones
- Above bears and supports head
- Centrally ribs/scapula, indirect support for upper limbs
- Below articulates with the hip bones, together bear most of the body weight
Attachment for trunk muscle
Protection of the spinal cord
Segmental innervation of the body


Describe curvature of the vertebral column in the foetus

Anterior concave
Primary curvature throughout whole column


Describe kyphosis

Exaggerated anterior curvature


Describe curvature of the vertebral column in a young adult

Sinusoidal presentation to give great flexibility and resistance.
Two anterior and two posterior flexion
Secondary in cervical and lumbar regions
Primary in thoracic, sacral and coccyx


Describe curvature of the vertebral column in old age.

Secondary curvature disappears


How many vertebrae are separable from their neighbours?



What vertebrae are fused?

Sacrum (5)
Coccyx (4)


Describe the vertebral body

Usually the largest part and mainly weight bearing.
Size increases from top down
Linked adjacently by intervertebral discs
Arrangement repeated from C2/3 to L5/S1


Describe the structure of the vertebral arch

Spinous process in the midline
Transverse process laterally
Pedicle between body and transverse process
Lamina between transverse and sinous process
Articular processes at junction of lamina and pedicle, one superior and one inferior on both sides.


Describe the articular facets on the vertebral arch

One superior and one inferior on each side
Cartilage-lined to form synovial joints between adjacent vertebrae.
Strengthened by the ligamentum flavum.


What makes up the intervertebral foramen?

Superior and inferior notch of each pedicle


What class of joint are the vertebrae?

Secondary cartilagenous joints: symphyses


Describe changes in the intervertebral discs throughout the spine.

Increase in size from superior to inferior
Wedge shaped in the lumbar and thoracic levels, thickets anteriorly here


Approximately what percentage of the height of the vertebral column does intervertebral discs account for?



What are the two regions of intervertebral discs?

Central nucleus pulposus and peripheral annulus fibrosis


What is the origin of the nucleus pulposus?

Embryonic notochord


Describe the nucleus pulposus

Jelly-like with high osmotic pressure: water reservoir
Changes size with age and position


Describe a 'slipped disc'

When the nucleolus pulposus herniates through the annulus fibrosis, can lead to degradation. Largely does so posteriolaterally.


Describe marginal osteophytosis

A bony projection which develops on the exterior of the joint, most commonly secondary to osteoarthritis.
This is because load stresses on the disc alter as its size decreases.
Increased stress on the facet joints leads to osteoarthritis.
Decreasing disc height can lead to congestion of the intervertebral foramen and compression of the segmental nerves.


Describe spondylosis deformans (senile ankylosis)

Progressive degeneration of the annulus, causing increasing osteophytosis at the disc space margins. Disc space is largely preserved.
Usually seen in the thoracocolumnar spine in the over-50's.


Describe the facet joint

Set of synovial plane joints between the articular processes of two adjacent vertebrae.


Describe the anterior longitudinal ligament

Ends at the sacrum
Starts narrow then broadens, largely flat.
Firmly attached to the periosteum of the vertebral bodies and free over the vertebral discs


Describe the posterior longitudinal ligament

Thin at the bottom and thick at the top.
Serrated margins
Basivertebral veins separate it from the vertebral bodies, explaining why herniation mainly occurs at this point.


Describe the ligamentum nuchae

Proximal attachment at the occipital protuberance.
Continuous with the supraspinous ligament.
Maintains secondary curvature.


Describe the supraspinous ligament

Join tips of the adjacent spinous process
Strong bands of white fibrous tissue
Lax in the extende dspine
In flexion are drawn taut to mechanically support the spine.


Describe the ligamentum flavum

Yellow in colour due to high content of elastic fibres.
Joint laminae of adjacent vertebrae
Attached to the front of the upper lamina and back of the lower lamina
Stretched by flexion of the spine


Describe the interspinous ligament

Relatively weak sheets of fibrous tissue
Unites spinous processes along adjacent borders
Only well developed in the lumbar region
Fuse with supraspinatous ligament


What are the distinguishing features of the cervical spine?

Bifid spinous process
Oval transverse foramen
Vertebral artery through all except C7 (has accessory vertebral veins)
Large vertebral foramen


What are the distinguishing features of the thoracic spine?

Increase in size from top downwards
Facets on the side of the body
Demi-facets for articulating with the ribs
Facets on transverse process (not T11/12) to articulate with tubercle of rib
Small and circular vertebral foramen


What are the distinguishing features of the lumbar spine?

Largest of the discrete vertebrae
No costal facets
Triangular and small vertebral foramina
Spinous process not bifid


Describe the atlas vertebra.

Articulates with the skull
Forms the atlantooccipital and atlantoaxial joints.
No body or spinous process
Widest cervical vertebra
Body fixed within the axis


Describe the axis vertebra.

Strongest cervical vertebra
3 main features
- odontoid process (dens)
- rugged lateral mass
- large spinous process
Dens prevents horizontal displacement of the atlas


Describe a hangman's fracture

Hanging causes the dens to fracture, atlantoaxial joint dislocates, compressing the spinal cord and causing death.


What injuries is the cervical spine particularly susceptable to?

Sports injuries e.g. in a scrum


What injury is the lumbar spine particularly susceptable to?

Herniation at L4/5 or L5/S1


What is the cause of scoliosis?

Unbalanced muscle tone


What is lordosis?

Excessive secondary curvature