Ossification of the fetal spine

Nancy E. Budorick, Dolores H. Pretorius, Marjorie R. Grafe, Karen V. Lou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The neural arch ossification centers in the distal fetal spine were evaluated with ultrasound (US) during the second trimester of pregnancy in 239 fetuses. Ossification of the neural arch centers occurred in a predictable pattern and in a caudal direction. An additional vertebral level became ossified every 2-3 weeks from L-5 through S-5 after 16 weeks gestational age; by 22 weeks, S-2 was ossified in all fetuses studied. Radiographic and histologic correlation was performed in one fetus, and the method of establishing vertebral level with US proved accurate. In addition, the origin of the echoes at US corresponded to the histologic ossification centers. In 95% of the fetuses, S-1 was at the top of the iliac wing. Therefore, the level of ossification in the distal fetal spine could be rapidly assessed. Ossification to S-2 by 22 weeks, with a normal transverse configuration, normal overlying integument, and normal cranial structures, should lead to reassurance in excluding neural tube defects, except for distal sacral lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-565
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetus, US studies, 856.1298
  • Fetus, growth and development, 856.91
  • Fetus, skeletal system, 856.8739

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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