Herniated Discs May Be Sign of Spinal Malformation in Children

Category: Nerves, Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

herniated discs & spine malformations

New findings published in Neurosurgery suggest herniated discs in children and adolescents may be indicative of a malformation in the spinal column.

The study, conducted by Dr. Shongjun Liu and colleagues at Peking University, sought to determine why children and teens were developing lumbar disc herniation. Normally a herniated disc is caused by gradual wear and tear over the course of a few decades, but that clearly wasn’t the case with these young children.

Dr. Shongjun and colleagues looked at x-ray images of 63 patients under the age of 20 who had experienced lumbar disc herniation. 37 of the patients were male, 26 were female, the average age was 17-years-old and all patients underwent surgery to address back pain that wasn’t alleviated through conservative treatment.

Herniated Discs & Vertebrae Problems

After analyzing the results, researchers concluded:

  • X-rays revealed that the vast majority of patients were dealing with at least one malformation of the lumbar spine or sacrum. “Malformations were completely absent in only three cases,” wrote Dr. Liu and colleagues.
  • 36 patients underwent a discectomy to address only the herniated disc, while 27 underwent a discectomy and an arthrodesis (fusion) of the vertebrae. Surgery reduced back pain in all cases, and since discectomy alone had similar outcomes as the dual procedure, researchers concluded that discectomy alone might be the preferred option when treating herniated discs in young patients.

Based on their research, Dr. Liu and colleagues said that lumbar disc herniations in young adults can tip neurologists off to a larger issue.

“Congenital lumbosacral malformations are significantly associated with LDH in children and adolescents.”

They concluded by noting that discectomy appears to be the best method to treat LDH pain in adolescents, as spinal fusion doesn’t typically increase overall improvements in this scenario.

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