Although lumbar spondylolysis is encountered in general population with an incidence estimated to be 3-10%, limited information is available for children. The aim of the study is to determine the prevalence of spondylolysis according to associated vertebral bony malformation and spinopelvic parameters in children under eight requiring CT evaluation for unrelated lumbar conditions.

Seven hundred and seventeen abdominal and pelvic multi-detector CT scans were obtained in patients under 8 years of age were reviewed. Two board certificated radiologists and two resident radiologists retrospectively evaluated CT scans for lumbar spondylolysis and associated malformations. Pelvic incidence and spondylolisthesis were reported.

Our analysis included 717 CT scans in 532 children (259 girls and 273 boys). Twenty-five cases of spondylolysis were diagnosed (16 bilateral and 9 unilateral, 64 and 36%, respectively) in 14 boys (56%) and 11 girls (44%), associating with 12 grade I spondylolisthesis. The mean normal pelvic incidence was 45° (median 44°, SD 7°). The prevalence of spondylolysis was 1% in children under age 3 (n = 3 among 292 patients), 3.7% in children under age 6 (n = 17 among 454 patients) and 4.7% among the 532 patients. Unilateral spondylolysis was significantly associated with a spinal malformation (p = 0.04, Fisher's exact test), with normal pelvic incidence. Half of the patients with bilateral spondylolysis had high pelvic incidence.

We observed a prevalence peak of unilateral spondylolysis in the context of a specific malformation in young infants under age 4 with normal pelvic incidence, and, then, a progressive increase in the prevalence of bilateral isolated spondylolysis.

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