, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 13-23
Date: 13 Jul 2010

The lumbar facet joint: a review of current knowledge: part 1: anatomy, biomechanics, and grading

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Abstract

We present a two-part review article on the current state of knowledge of lumbar facet joint pathology. This first article discusses the functional anatomy, biomechanics, and radiological grading systems currently in use in clinical practice and academic medicine. Facet joint degeneration is presented within the larger context of degenerative disc disease to enable the reader to better understand the anatomical changes underlying facet-mediated lower back pain. Other less-common, but equally important etiologies of lumbar facet joint degeneration are reviewed. The existing grading systems are discussed with specific reference to the reliability of CT and MR imaging in the diagnosis of lumbar facet osteoarthritis. It is hoped that this discussion will stimulate debate on how best to improve the diagnostic reliability of these tests so as to improve both operative and non-operative treatment outcomes.