Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Orthopedic Teaching

Spine Case 5 Background

L5 spondylolysis


Background

Spondylolysis is a defect in the pars interarticularis – a stress fracture from repeated microtrauma. Heredity is also believed to be a factor. Approximately 3-7% of the general population has spondylolysis. Spondylolysis can be seen in both children and adults and is a common cause of low back pain in adolescent athletes.

Approximately 95% of occur at the L5 level. The process may be unilateral or bilateral, and may be painful or asymptomatic. Bilateral spondylolysis can progress to significant slippage (or spondylolisthesis).