A. Kettler, K. Werner, H.-J. Wilke


July 2007, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 987 - 992 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-006-0275-9

First Online: 11 April 2007

To better understand the role of facet joint degeneration in chronic neck and back pain epidemiological and morphological data are needed. For the cervical spine, however, such data are rare. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the degree of cartilage degeneration of cervical facet joints with respect to spinal level and age, to investigate whether any region of the joint surface is more often affected by degeneration and to determine the localisation of osteophytes. A total of 128 left-sided facet surfaces from 15 fresh frozen cervical spine specimens (59–92 years) including in maximum C2–C7 were inspected in a way to ensure a direct comparability to data reported for the lumbar spine. First, the macroscopic degree of cartilage degeneration was determined and correlated to spinal level and age. Then, each facet surface was divided into five regions (anterior, posterior, lateral, medial and central) to check whether cartilage degeneration occurs more often in any of these regions. Finally, the localisation of osteophytes was determined. The results showed that the mean degree of cartilage degeneration was 2.8 (±0.6) on a scale from Grade 1 (no degeneration) to 4 (severe degeneration). None of all 128 facet surfaces was classified as Grade 1. All spinal levels had about the same degree of degeneration (in mean 2.5–3.0). The youngest age group (


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