Children's Hospital Colorado


What is spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when there is a slip of the vertebra where a vertebrae stress fracture (spondylolysis) has previously occurred. The stress fracture may weaken to a point where there is a shift of the vertebrae, usually forward, from its normal position.

It is possible if a large enough slip occurs that nerves may become pinched. Spondylolisthesis is graded from a mild slip (type 1) to a significant slip (type 5).

Who gets spondylolisthesis?

A child who is active in sports such as diving, gymnastics, football and any sport that puts stress on the low back due to hyperextension may develop spondylolysis over time, which can lead to spondylolisthesis.

Signs and Symptoms

What are symptoms of spondylolisthesis?

A child with spondylolisthesis may have pain and muscle spasms in his or her lower back and back of the leg. These spasms may cause changes in the way a child walks. If there is a significant slip, nerves of the spinal column may become pinched.

How is spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed by a series of lumbar spine x-rays. The x-rays will allow the orthopedic doctor to determine the amount of slippage that has occurred and what the treatment needs to be.

How is spondylolisthesis treated?

At the Spine Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, treatment of spondylolistheisis is conservative if there is only a minor slip of the vertebrae. This includes rest from activities/sports, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Your child’s doctor may also recommend a back brace.

If the slip is becoming worse, or your child has continued pain, experts at our Spine Program may recommend surgery. This surgery is referred to as a spinal fusion. During a spinal fusion the vertebrae of the low back (lumbar region) are fused to the sacrum (bone at the base of the spine).

Why choose the Spine Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado?

The Spine Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado evaluates and treats infants, children, adolescents and young adults with all types of spinal diseases, deformities and injuries, ranging from spondylolistheisis to complex neuromuscular disease and trauma. Our spine team is among the most knowledgeable pediatric spine care teams in the country.

For the most basic to the most complex spinal conditions, our goal is to always provide the safest and most effective treatments, often beginning with non-surgical options. However, if surgery is the only option, we offer innovative approaches from experienced surgeons who perform more than 200 pediatric spine procedures each year.

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