Coronal vertebral cleft

Last revised by Dr Henry Knipe on 12 Nov 2018

Coronal vertebral clefts refer to the presence of radiolucent vertical defects on a lateral radiograph.  

It is most often seen in premature male infants 1,3. As they can occur as part of normal variation (especially in the lower thoracic-upper lumbar spine of premature infants) they should not be necessarily interpreted as a malformation if seen in a newborn radiograph 2

However, they can also be found in association with 1:

It often represents a delay in normal vertebral maturation and results from a failure of fusion of anterior and posterior ossification centers which remain separated by a cartilage plate. 

As a whole, there is a predilection for the lower thoracic and lumbar vertebral bodies 1,3.

On the lateral view of the spine, it may be seen as a vertical radiolucent band just behind the midportion of the body 3,4.  The affected vertebra may appear somewhat larger than those adjoining them. 

In most cases, the vertebral clefts disappear by six months after birth 3

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: in premature infant
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