Article Abstract

Population reference range for developmental lumbar spinal canal size

Authors: James F Griffith, Junbin Huang, Sheung-Wai Law, Fan Xiao, Jason Chi Shun Leung, Defeng Wang


Background: Considerable variability exists in normal developmental lumbar spinal canal size. This impacts the likelihood of neural compromise. Spinal canal development is complete by 17 years. As diseases incurred thereafter do not knowingly affect the developmental size of the spinal canal, it is reasonable to use a selected population undergoing abdominopelvic computed tomography (CT) examination to determine developmental lumbar spinal canal size.
Methods: Study approval was granted by the Clinical Research Ethics Committee. Between Feb 2014 and Jan 2015, mid-vertebral spinal canal cross-sectional area (CSA), depth, width, and vertebral body CSA at each level from L1–L5 was measured, using a semi-automated computerized method in 1,080 ambulatory patients (540 males, 540 females, mean age, 50.5±17 years). Patient height and weight was measured.
Results: A reference range for developmental lumbar spinal canal dimensions was developed at each lumbar level for each sex. There was a 34% variation in spinal canal CSA between smallest and largest quartiles. Developmental spinal canal CSA and depth were consistently smallest at L3, enlarging cranially and caudally. Taller people had slightly larger lumbar spinal canals (P<0.0001). Males had larger spinal canal CSAs than females though relative to vertebral body CSA, spinal canal CSA was larger in females. There was no change in spinal canal CSA with age, weight or BMI (P<0.05).
Conclusions: A population reference range for developmental lumbar spinal canal size was developed. This allows one to objectively determine the degree of developmental spinal canal stenosis present on an individual patient basis.