Fetal spine ossification: The gender and individual differences illustrated by ultrasonography

M. Vignolo, G. Ginocchio, A. Parodi, C. Torrisi, A. Pistorio, P. L. Venturini, G. Aicardi, P. De Biasio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The spatial and temporal pattern of manifestation of ossification nuclei of the spinal column in fetal life have been well established by histologic and radiologic studies. Sonographic evaluation of the fetal spine depends on visualization of the ossification centers, but the sequence of development of ossification centers in the vertebral column obtained by embryologists and sonographers and radiology are conflicting. We carried out a longitudinal study to establish the ultrasonographic appearance and timing of development of primary ossification centers of the fetal spine in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. A total of 80 mothers were evaluated during their pregnancy with two echographic controls; in the first trimester, the spine length was measured and, in the second trimester of pregnancy, the timing of ossification of the bodies and neural arches of sacral vertebrae and the difference in appearance between the female and male genders were evaluated. Spinal length measurements obtained in the first trimester and percentage of detection of sacral vertebral structures increased progressively with a regular pattern in relation to gestational age. Spinal length at first ultrasound examination was slightly correlated with time of appearance of sacral bodies and arches. Ossification timing was significantly earlier in females than in males. The study has attempted to improve our understanding of the sonographic detection of the spinal ossification. Data presented give some further information on the stages of appearance of sacral vertebrae body centers during intrauterine development. Differences between genders and interindividual variations in ossification timing were observed at a very early stage of development. This could be of value when fetal growth is evaluated. Moreover, further knowledge of spinal development may be useful for early diagnosis of spinal abnormalities and for fetal biometrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-738
Number of pages6
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • Pregnancy
  • Sacral
  • Spinal length
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vertebrae ossification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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