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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

ASYMMETRY OF OSTEOARTHRITIS IN THE THORACIC VERTEBRAE WITH RESPECT TO SEX AND AGE

Abstract

The thoracic skeleton comprises 12 vertebrae and older individuals tend to exhibit a greater expression of osteoarthritic features such as lipping, porosity, eburnation and ankylosis than their younger counterparts with the caveat that occupational stress, epigenetic factors and repetitive movements can exacerbate the degeneration of the spine. The thoracic vertebrae commonly present slight to moderate scoliosis and this medial or lateral curvature may affects the degree to which asymmetry of osteoarthritis occurs with respect to the onset of advanced age. To address the extent to which asymmetry of thoracic osteoarthritis is a function of sex differences in the aging process, the superior and inferior articular facets of a total of 14 female and 9 male thoracic skeletons from the identified osteological collection curated at Western Carolina University were scored following the Chicago Standards. A separate scoring system (1-4) recorded the degree of asymmetry of right and left sides, and these data were compared using ANOVA with sex as the factor. Although no statistical significance between the ages of females and males is evident (p = 0.40), age was used as a covariate in each ANOVA. The sexes do not differ significantly for most of the thoracic elements with some important exceptions. The middle thoracic vertebrae exhibit significantly greater asymmetry for females compared to males, including superior T5 (p = 0.05) and T6 (p = 0.04), and inferior T4 (p = 0.02) and T5 (p = 0.04), as well as inferior T2 (p = 0.02). However, males exhibit greater asymmetry of superior T10 (p = 0.05). It is possible that females exhibit greater stress in the middle thoracic while males show more asymmetrical osteoarthritis in the lower elements of the thoracic spine from differential weight distribution, sample idiosyncrasies, sex-linked load bearing, or possibly from a greater degree of scoliosis in females.

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