Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Treatment

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Degenerative spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the spine’s vertebrae (usually in the lower back area) slips out of place. Often there are no symptoms. Your doctor may discover it when seeing you for another health problem.

As a degenerative condition, it can get worse over time. But you don't have to live with the pain and other problems like incontinence. At UVA Health, you'll find spine experts who specialize in spondylolisthesis treatment.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, our spine experts can get to the root of your pain and other issues. Most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis can be treated without surgery. But surgery can be effective in severe cases. Our spine surgeons are experts in surgery to help stabilize the spine.

You may require surgery if your condition progresses or causes neurologic problems, such as incontinence. 

Spinal instrumentation (i.e., rods, screws) and fusion (bone graft) are common procedures to stop slip progression and stabilize the spine.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis may lead to spinal stenosis

What Causes Degenerative Spondylolisthesis?

The condition is most often caused by a stress fracture. This makes the vertebra unstable and allows it to slip forward. This type of fracture often occurs when a lot of stress and pressure is put on the back. This is usually from sports and sometimes by spinal problems that are present at birth.

Classification of Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

At UVA Health, we use the Meyerding Grading System to classify the degree of vertebral slippage. Slips are graded on the basis of the percentage that one vertebral body has slipped forward over the vertebral body below. 

Grade I:  1-24%
Grade II: 25-49%  
Grade III: 50-74% 
Grade IV: 75-99% 
Grade V: Complete slip (100%), known as spondyloptosis

Your doctor considers the degree of slip and other factors, such as severe, constant pain and neurological symptoms, when deciding on the most suitable treatment. Most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis are Grade I or II.

As a general guideline, the more severe slips (Grades III and above) are most likely to require surgical intervention.

If you're considering spine surgery, you'll want to learn more about UVA Health's spine care expertise.