European Spine Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1045–1052 | Cite as

Association of facet tropism with lumbar disc herniation

  • Manish Chadha
  • Gaurav SharmaEmail author
  • Shobha S. Arora
  • Vivek Kochar
Original Article



Facet tropism is defined as asymmetry between left and right facet joints and is postulated as a possible cause of disc herniation. In the present study, the authors used a 3-T MRI to investigate the association between facet tropism and lumbar disc herniation at a particular motion segment. They also examined whether the disc herniated towards the side of the more coronally oriented facet joint.


Sixty patients (18–40 years) with single level disc herniation (L3–L4, L4–L5, or L5–S1) were included in the study. Facet angles were measured using MRI of 3-T using the method described by Karacan et al. Facet tropism was defined as difference of 10° in facet joint angles between right and left sides. Normal disc adjacent to the herniated level was used as control. We also examined if disc herniated towards the side of more coronally oriented facet.


Twenty-five herniations were at L4–L5 level and 35 at L5–S1. Statistical analysis was performed using the Fischer Exact Test. At L4–L5 level, 6/25 cases had tropism compared to 3/35 controls (p = 0.145). At L5–S1 level, 13/35 cases had tropism as compared to 1/21 controls (p = 0.0094). Of 19 cases having tropism, the disc had herniated towards the coronally oriented facet in six (p = 0.11).


The findings of the study suggest that facet tropism is associated with lumbar disc herniation at the L5–S1 motion segment but not at the L4–L5 level.


Facet tropism Lumbar disc herniation Facet asymmetry Magnetic resonance imaging 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manish Chadha
    • 1
  • Gaurav Sharma
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shobha S. Arora
    • 1
  • Vivek Kochar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OrthopaedicsUniversity College of Medical Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur HospitalNew DelhiIndia

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