Transitional vertebra

Last revised by Dr Yahya Baba on 30 Dec 2020

A transitional vertebra is one that has indeterminate characteristics and features of vertebrae from adjacent vertebral segments. They occur at the junction between spinal morphological segments:

Their importance stems both because the altered anatomy can be symptomatic (e.g. cervical rib causing thoracic outlet syndrome) or because they can lead to confusion when describing findings and thus lead to an incorrect level operation.

Radiographic features

  • best identified on sagittal T1W and T2W images
  • correct identification can only be definitively proven if the entire spine is imaged

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: bilateral partial atlanto-occipital assimilation
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  • Case 2: lumbarized S1
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  • Case 3: sacralization of L5- Castellvi type IIa
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