Bamboo spine

Dr Varun Babu and A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

Bamboo spine is a radiographic feature seen in ankylosing spondylitis that occurs as a result of vertebral body fusion by marginal syndesmophytes. It is often accompanied by fusion of the posterior vertebral elements as well.

 A bamboo spine typically involves the thoracolumbar and/or lumbosacral junctions and predisposes to unstable vertebral fractures and Andersson lesions.

In a bamboo spine, the outer fibers of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disks ossify, which results in the formation of marginal syndesmophytes between adjoining vertebral bodies. The resulting radiographic appearance, therefore, is that of thin, curved, radiopaque spicules that completely bridge adjoining vertebral bodies.

There is also accompanying squaring of the anterior vertebral body margins with associated reactive sclerosis of the vertebral body margins (shiny corner sign). Together these give the impression of undulating continuous lateral spinal borders on AP spinal radiographs and resemble a bamboo stem; hence the term bamboo spine.

History and etymology

Although B Connor was the first to thoroughly describe an ankylosed human spine in 1694, using a disinterred human spine for his M.D. thesis, P Marie (of Marie-Strumpell disease) was the first to describe an ankylosed spine as 'fait rigide comme un baton' ('rigid as a stick') 1,2.

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Article information

rID: 962
Section: Signs
Tag: spine, refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: photograph - bamboo forest
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  •  Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Marginal syndesmo...
    Case 3
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  • AP radiograph
    Case 4
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  • Case 5
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  • Case 6
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  • Case 7
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  • Case 8
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  • Case 9
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  • Interspinous liga...
    Case 10
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  • Typical appearanc...
    Case 11
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  • Case 12
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