Aliyu Lawan, Andrew Leung, Michele C. Battié

June 2020, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 1397 - 1409 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06378-8

First Online: 26 March 2020

Vertebral endplate defects: nomenclature, classification and measurement methods: a scoping review


To summarize the scope of nomenclature and measurement methods used to document endplate defects in the health sciences literature.


The scoping review followed the York framework and was reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews. The databases of PubMed, Scopus, Embase and CINAHL were searched using key terms. Screening and selection were conducted by two independent reviewers. A standardized, pilot-tested form was used for extracting data, which were analyzed descriptively.


The review included 211 studies, originating from 29 countries, with the USA (18.8%) and China (12.26%) as leading contributors. Thirty-four different terms for structural endplate defects were reported, but were never defined in most studies (65%). Of the 34 different terms used, some appeared to represent the same phenomenon, while the same terms were occasionally defined differently between studies. Schmorl’s nodes were most commonly investigated (n = 99 studies) and defined similarly across studies, with the main difference relating to whether the indentation (node) was required to have a sclerotic margin. There were also similarities in definitions for endplate sclerosis. However, there was great variability in the definitions of other terms, such as lesions, irregularities, abnormalities, erosions and changes.


With the possible exception of Schmorl’s nodes, we lack a common language for effectively communicating structural endplate findings. This review provides a foundation and impetus for standardizing terminology and core measures to improve communication and synthesis of the growing body of endplate research to advance related knowledge.

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