The morphological consequences of segmentation anomalies in the human sacrum

Am J Biol Anthropol. 2022 Apr;177(4):690-707. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.24466. Epub 2021 Dec 29.


OBJECTIVES: Despite the high frequency of segmentation anomalies in the human sacrum, their evolutionary and clinical implications remain controversial. Specifically, inconsistencies involving the classification and counting methods obscure accurate assessment of lumbosacral transitional vertebrae. Therefore, we aim to establish more reliable morphological and morphometric methods for differentiating between sacralizations and lumbarizations in clinical and paleontological contexts.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using clinical CT data from 145 individuals aged 14-47 years, vertebral counts and the spatial relationship between the sacrum and adjoining bony structures were assessed, while the morphological variation of the sacrum was assessed using geometric morphometrics based on varied landmark configurations.

RESULTS: The prevalence of lumbosacral and sacrococcygeal segmentation anomalies was 40%. Lumbarizations and sacralizations were reliably distinguishable based on the spatial relationship between the iliac crest and the upward or downward trajectory of the linea terminalis on the sacrum. Different craniocaudal orientations of the alae relative to the corpus of the first sacral vertebra were also reflected in the geometric morphometric analyses. The fusion of the coccyx (32%) was frequently coupled with lumbarizations, suggesting that the six-element sacra more often incorporate the coccyx rather than the fifth lumbar vertebra.

CONCLUSIONS: Our approach allowed the consistent identification of segmentation anomalies even in isolated sacra. Additionally, our outcomes either suggest that homeotic border shifts often affect multiple spinal regions in a unidirectional way, or that sacrum length is highly conserved perhaps due to functional constraints. Our results elucidate the potential clinical, biomechanical, and evolutionary significance of lumbosacral transitional vertebrae.

PMID:36787761 | PMC:PMC9303760 | DOI:10.1002/ajpa.24466


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