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The middle layer of lumbar fascia and attachments to lumbar transverse processes: implications for segmental control and fracture

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The anatomy of the middle layer of lumbar fascia (MLF) is of biomechanical interest and potential clinical relevance, yet it has been inconsistently described. Avulsion fractures of the lumbar transverse processes (LxTP’s) are traditionally attributed to traction from psoas major or quadratus lumborum (QL), rather than transversus abdominis (TrA) acting via the MLF. This attachment is also absent from many biomechanical models of segmental control. The aims of this study were to document: (1) the morphology and attachments of the MLF and (2) the attachments of psoas and QL to the LxTP’s. Eighteen embalmed cadavers were dissected, measuring the thickness, fibre angle and width of the MLF and documenting the attachments of MLF, psoas and QL. The MLF was thicker at the level of the LxTP’s than between them (mean 0.62: 0.40 mm). Psoas attached to the anteromedial surface of each process and QL and TrA to its lateral border; QL at its upper and lower corners and TrA (via the MLF) to its tip. In three cadavers, tension applied to the MLF fractured a transverse process. The MLF has a substantial and thickened attachment to the tips of the LxTP’s which supports the involvement of TrA in lumbar segmental control and/ or avulsion fracture of the LxTP’s.

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The authors sincerely thank Dr Colin Anderson (Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Melbourne), Mr. Robert Marshall (Surgeon’s Rooms: 24 Collins Street, Melbourne) and Dr. Alex Pitman (Diagnostic Imaging, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute) for valued advice. Thanks also to Stuart Thyer for photography, Mathew Jackson and Diana Keshtiar (Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Melbourne) for technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Priscilla J. Barker.

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Barker, P.J., Urquhart, D.M., Story, I.H. et al. The middle layer of lumbar fascia and attachments to lumbar transverse processes: implications for segmental control and fracture. Eur Spine J 16, 2232–2237 (2007).

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