Comparison of cervical spinal canal diameter between younger and elder generations of Japanese

Shin Ichi Goto, Jutaro Umehara, Toshimi Aizawa, Shoichi Kokubun

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cervical myelopathy is more common among Japanese than Westerners. The shorter anteroposterior diameter of the cervical spinal canals (AP diameter) is its probable cause. In recent years, builds of younger Japanese have become larger and been approaching those of Westerners. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the cervical spinal canal had enlarged in the younger Japanese as well as any cross-sectional improvement in their builds. Methods: The subjects included 300 men and 300 women who were healthy and without symptoms related to the cervical spine. They were divided into six age groups at 10-year intervals from the twenties to the seventies. Height, body weight, and arm span were measured as physical factors. Using lateral dynamic radiographs of the cervical spine, the AP diameter from C3 to C6 in the neutral position and Penning's jaw diameter in extension (jaw diameter) from C2/3 to C5/6 were measured. The number of trapezoid-shaped vertebral bodies with a thickened posterior margin were also counted as such thickening might be one of the causes of spinal canal narrowing. Statistical analysis was performed for the following associations in both sexes: (1) age and physical factors; (2) age and the AP diameter; (3) age and jaw diameter; and (4) the difference of the AP diameter of the canal within and outside the trapezoid-shaped deformity of the vertebral body. Results: In both men and women, the younger generations statistically had a larger height, arm span, and AP diameter. Older generations showed a significantly narrower jaw diameter at all measured spinal levels in both sexes. Trapezoidshaped vertebral bodies were found in 3.5% of the men and in 1.3% of the women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, which statistically had no effect on the AP diameter being wider in the younger generations. Conclusions: Younger generations had larger builds and a wider canal of the cervical spine. A narrow spinal canal is a fundamental risk factor for cervical myelopathy. Therefore, cervical myelopathy might be expected to decrease in Japan in the near future when the present younger generations have aged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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