Morphological characteristics of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis in the cervical spine

Bakker, Jessica T, Kuperus, Jonneke S , Kuijf, Hugo J, Oner, F Cumhur, de Jong, Pim A, Verlaan, Jorrit-Jan


PLoS ONE [E] 12 (11),


OBJECTIVES: Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) is characterized by anterior ossification of the spine and can lead to dysphagia and airway obstruction. The morphology of the newly formed bone in the cervical spine is different compared to the thoracic spine, possibly due to dissimilarities in local vascular anatomy. In this study the spatial relationship of the new bone with the arterial system, trachea and esophagus was analyzed and compared between subjects with and without DISH.

METHODS: Cervical computed tomography (CT) scans were obtained from five patients with dysphagia and DISH and ten control subjects. The location of the vertebral and carotid arteries, surface area of the hyperostosis and distance between the vertebral body and the trachea and esophagus was assessed in the axial view.

RESULTS: The surface area of the newly formed bone was located symmetrically anterior to the vertebral body. The ossifications were non-flowing in the sagittal view and no segmental vessels were observed. Substantial displacement of the trachea/esophagus was present in the group with DISH compared to the controls.

CONCLUSIONS: The hyperostosis at the cervical level was symmetrically distributed anterior to the vertebral bodies without a flowing pattern, in contrast to the asymmetrical flowing pattern typically found in the thoracic spine. The hypothesis that the vascular system acts as a natural barrier against new bone formation in DISH could be further supported with these findings. The significant ventral displacement of the trachea and esophagus may explain the mechanism of dysphagia and airway obstruction in DISH.