JEAN-DENIS LAREDO, ISM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JEAN-DENIS LAREDO, ISM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Spine in spondylolisthesis. Coloured magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of a section through the lumbar spine of an 84-year-old male patient, showing narrowing of the lumbar canal (white) at the level of the L4-L5 vertebrae (labelled) caused by degenerative spondylolisthesis. This is the backward displacement of a vertebra (spinal bone) relative to the one above it. Here, a marked reduction in the size of the thecal sac facing the intervertebral disc (arrowed) can be seen. This condition can be due to a hereditary bone disorder, but can also be caused by trauma. It typically causes back pain and the displaced vertebra may put pressure on nearby spinal nerves or the spinal cord, causing sciatica (leg pain), loss of bladder and/or bowel control and eventually paralysis of the lower limbs.
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