Spondylolisthesis grades

Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition where a vertebrae begins to slip laterally over the one beneath it. Spondylolisthesis grades provide physicians with a standardized, medically accepted scale to measure the severity of a vertebral slip. The grading scale measures the percentage that a vertebra has shifted compared to the vertebra beneath it. The percentages are as follows:

  • Grade 1 — Zero-25% vertebral slippage
  • Grade 2 — 26-50% vertebral slippage
  • Grade 3 — 51-75% vertebral slippage
  • Grade 4 — 76-99% vertebral slippage
  • Grade 5 — vertebral disc has slipped completely off

How spondylolisthesis grades affect symptoms and treatment

Grade 1 spondylolisthesis will often be asymptomatic, but a doctor may discover it in an X-ray for an unrelated condition. Typical spondylolisthesis symptoms for grades 1 and 2 include pain in the lower back and buttocks, muscle spasms in the lower back and legs and tightened hamstrings. More severe symptoms are present in spondylolisthesis grades 3 and 4, which can include a protruding abdomen, difficulty walking and possibly a pain that shoots down the length of the spine if nerve obstruction is present.

Spondylolisthesis grades 1 and 2 are often treated with exercise, rest, back bracing or some other form of conservative treatment. Patients with a spondylolisthesis diagnosis of grade 3 or higher may require surgery if a full course of conservative treatments do not relieve symptoms after weeks or months.

When surgery becomes an option

Many patients are anxious about the prospect of undergoing a traditional open neck or back surgery due to the many risks and difficulties that come with this type of procedure. Because a large muscle-disrupting incision is required, traditional spine surgery involves overnight hospitalization followed by a long, sometimes painful, recovery period.

However, outpatient spondylolisthesis surgery options are available to relieve symptoms, offering shorter recovery times^ compared to traditional open back surgeries. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery in our state-of-the-art facilities, and has helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain since 2005.

For more information, contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* that can determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.