Congenital malformations in the vertebral column: associations and possible embryologic origins

Anneli M. Du Plessis, Quenton Wessels, Albert Van Schoor, Natalie Keough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cases of associations between random spinal congenital defects have previously been reported, yet several questions remain unanswered. Firstly, why are associations between what seems to be random combinations of vertebral malformations observed? Secondly, is there a common event or pattern that connects the associated defects? Therefore, this study aimed to identify congenital defects in the vertebral column and also to determine whether any associations, if present, between vertebral malformations exist. This article consequently discusses the possible embryological disruptions that may lead to the formation of various defects in the vertebral column. A random skeletal sample (n=187) was selected from the Pretoria Bone Collection housed in the Department of Anatomy, University of Pretoria (Ethics 678/2018). The sample was evaluated to determine the frequencies of spinal congenital defects in each set of remains. Identifiable congenital malformations were observed in 48.1% (n=90/187) of the sample. The results demonstrated a high probability of association between the different defects observed in the vertebral column. Findings are of value as they provide a reasonable explanation to why seemingly random cases of associations have been reported by several authors. This study is clinically relevant as severe spinal defects have been shown to have high morbidity in patients and mortality in infants.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)399-405
Number of pages7
JournalAnatomy and Cell Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Congenital
  • Embryology
  • Physical anthropology
  • Somites
  • Vertebra


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