The influence of sex, age and BMI on the degeneration of the lumbar spine

Lisa A. Zukowski, Anthony B. Falsetti, Mark D. Tillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Previous research on lumbar spine osteophyte formation has focused on patterned development and the relation of age and sex to degeneration within the vertebral bodies. The inclusion of osteophytes originating on the laminae and body mass index (BMI) may result in a more complete evaluation. This study investigates lumbar osteophyte development on the laminae and vertebral bodies to determine whether osteophyte development: (i) is related bilaterally, at different lumbar levels, and superior and inferior margins; (ii) on the laminae and vertebral bodies are reciprocally dependent responses; (iii) is correlated with sex, age and/or BMI. Seventy-six individuals (39 females, 37 males) were randomly selected from a modern skeletal collection (Bass Donated Collection). Osteophyte development was scored in eight regions on each vertebra at all five lumbar levels. A factor analysis considered all 40 scoring regions and Pearson's correlation analyses assessed the relatedness of age and BMI with the consequent factors. The factor analysis separated the variables into two similar factors for males and females defined as: (i) superior and inferior vertebral body scores and (ii) superior laminar scores at higher lumbar levels. The factor analysis also determined a third factor for females defined as: (iii) inferior laminar scores at lower lumbar levels. The severity of vertebral body osteophytes increased with age for both sexes. Additionally for females, as BMI increased, osteophyte severity increased for both the superior laminar margins higher in the column and the vertebral bodies. Dissimilarities between the factors in males and females and the correlation of BMI to osteophyte severity exclusively in females provide evidence for different biomechanical processes influencing osteophyte development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Lamina
  • Osteophytes
  • Vertebrae
  • Vertebral body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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