Background/Purpose: Premature adjacent-level degeneration has been attributed to vertebral fusion, but spondylolisthesis has not been reported as a pathological factor responsible for the degeneration of adjacent disc and facet joint. We hypothesized that the degeneration of disc and facet joints in the adjacent levels is correlated with spondylolisthesis. Methods: Magnetic resonance images of 35 symptomatic young adults (16-29 years old) with low-grade L5-S1 spondylolytic spondylolisthesis (Meyerding Grade 1 or 2) and 50 symptomatic young referents (20-29 years old) with L5-S1 disc herniation without spondylolisthesis were recruited to compare the differences between disc and facet-joint degenerations at the olisthetic and adjacent levels using the Mantel extension test. Results: There were statistically significant degenerative changes of the discs and facet joints at the olisthetic and adjacent levels of patients with spondylolytic spondylolisthesis compared with the reference group. There is a trend that the disc and facet joints degenerate the most at the olisthetic level and become less affected at adjacent levels away from the lesion of pars defect. Conclusion: Low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis was associated with significant degenerations of the disc and facet joints at olisthetic and adjacent levels in young adults.
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