Oppenheimer ossicle

Case contributed by Eid Kakish


Low back pain after lifting a heavy object. Referred for a lumbar spine MRI.

Patient Data

Age: 30 years
Gender: Male

Lumbar spine


A well-corticated triangular bony fragment is seen at the left inferior articular process of L3, in keeping with an Oppenheimer ossicle. It demonstartes a hyperintese signal on T1 and T2, which is suppressed on STIR, reflecting fat metaplasia. 

Intervertebral disc disease in the form of a central annular fissure at L4-L5 and a broad-based central protrusion at L5-S1. No canal stenosis or nerve root compromise.



Annotated image

Annotated sagittal and coronal T2 weighted images:

Oppenheimer ossicle (red arrow)

Case Discussion

Usually an incidental finding, an Oppenheimer ossicle is an accessory structure resulting from a horizontal cleft through the inferior or less commonly the superior articular processes in the lumbar spine.

It can be mistaken for a pars interarticularis fracture or, rarely, for a calcified ligamentum flavum in older patients.

How to use cases

You can use Radiopaedia cases in a variety of ways to help you learn and teach.

Creating your own cases is easy.

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.