The prevalence of asymptomatic cervical and lumbar facet arthropathy: A computed tomography study

Jung Hwan Kim, Alok Sharan, Woojin Cho, Mohammed Emam, Michael Hagen, Soo Yeon Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Study Design: Case control study. Purpose: To determine the prevalence and degree of asymptomatic cervical and lumbar facet joint arthritis. We retrospectively reviewed 500 computed tomography (CT) scans of cervical facet joints obtained from 50 subjects. Moreover, 500 lumbar facet joints obtained from an additional 50 subjects were reviewed. Overview of Literature: Numerous reports in the literature indicate that joint arthritis is a major source of axial neck and low back pain. However, the diagnostic value of this condition, based on degenerative changes seen on radiological studies, remains controversial because significant imaging findings may not correlate with corresponding symptoms. The CT scan is a sensitive method for facet joint evaluation and may reveal degenerative abnormalities. Previous studies have described the prevalence of facet arthropathy in symptomatic patients, according to radiological findings; however, no study to date has assessed its prevalence in asymptomatic patients. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the neck and abdominal CT scans of patients had been examined for non-spinal pathologies (i.e., thyroid disease, rule out cancer, ascites). Electronic medical records were reviewed to exclude patients with histories of either neck or back pain. Arthritis severity was graded using a previously published four-point CT scale. Results: The prevalence of asymptomatic cervical facet arthritis (grade 1-3) was 33% (grade 1, 19%; grade 2, 11%; and grade 3, 3%). Among asymptomatic patients, 37% had scalable lumbar facet join arthritis (grade 1, 24%; grade 2, 9%; and grade 3, 4%). There was a statistically significant difference (chi-square test, p < 0.0001) in the number of older individuals with arthritic degeneration at the cervical and lumbar levels compared with that of younger individuals. The C6-C7 and L5-S1 levels were the most likely to show arthritic changes. Conclusions: Arthritic changes to the cervical and lumbar facet joints are prevalent among patients, and in some cases are asymptomatic. These findings were more common in older patients and at lower spinal levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-422
Number of pages6
JournalAsian Spine Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical spine
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Facet joint
  • Lumbar spine
  • Prevalence study
  • Zygapophyseal joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'The prevalence of asymptomatic cervical and lumbar facet arthropathy: A computed tomography study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this