Anatomical Science International

, Volume 86, Issue 1, pp 1–9 | Cite as

Vertebral spinal osteophytes

  • Zachary Klaassen
  • R. Shane Tubbs
  • Nihal Apaydin
  • Robert Hage
  • Robert Jordan
  • Marios LoukasEmail author
Review Article


Osteoarthritis is a common complication in the elderly and is often associated with osteophyte growth on vertebral bodies. The clinical presentation of vertebral osteophytes is related to anatomical structures adjacent to the spinal column. For instance, cervical osteophytes potentially involve the pharynx and esophagus, leading to dysphagic symptoms that may be accompanied by food aspiration, vocal fold paralysis and obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to anterior cervical osteophytes, posterior and uncinate process osteophytes may form, compressing the spinal cord and vertebral artery blood supply, respectively. Cervical osteophytes have also been shown to form an accessory median atlanto-occipital joint when the relationship between the atlas, dens and basiocciput is involved. In the thorax, the esophagus is often affected by osteophytes and may result in dysphagia. Traumatic and non-traumatic thoracic aorta pseudoaneurysm formation has been attributed to sharp osteophytes lacerating the aorta, a direct complication of the relationship between the aorta anterior vertebral column. Additionally, aspiration pneumonia was reported in patients with compression of a main stem bronchus, due to mechanical compression by thoracic osteophytes. In the lumbar spinal region, the two major structures in close proximity to the spine are the inferior vena cava and abdominal aorta, both of which have been reported to be affected by osteophytes. Treatment of osteophytes is initially conservative with anti-inflammatory medications, followed by surgical removal. Increasing obesity and geriatric populations will continue to result in an array of osteoarthritic degenerative changes such as osteophyte formation.


Spinal column Pathology Bone Ageing 



The authors would like to thank Miss Kate Kryger for obtaining the pictures from the anatomy laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Anatomists 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary Klaassen
    • 1
  • R. Shane Tubbs
    • 2
  • Nihal Apaydin
    • 3
  • Robert Hage
    • 1
  • Robert Jordan
    • 1
  • Marios Loukas
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of MedicineSt. George’s UniversityGrenadaWest Indies
  2. 2.Department of Pediatric NeurosurgeryChildren’s HospitalBirminghamUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnatomyAnkara University School of MedicineAnkaraTurkey

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