OBJECTIVE: To determine the association between levels of basic metabolic elements and degeneration and ossification of the ligamentum flavum (LF).
SUBJECTS: Fourteen consecutive patients with degenerative lumbar stenosis, 11 with ossification of the thoracic ligamenta flava, and 11 control subjects.
METHODS: The basic elements of calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and fluoride (F) in the specimens were measured using atomic absorption spectrometry, the phosphomolybdic blue method, and a fluoride-selected electrode.
RESULTS: Ca content and the ratio of Ca/Mg in the LF specimens increased significantly in the sequence of control, degeneration, and ossification groups. Compared with values for the control group, the Zn, Mn, and Mo contents in the ossification and degeneration groups were significantly lower (P < 0.01); in contrast, Cu content was significantly higher (P < 0.01). As to F, its content in the specimens of the ossification group was much higher than those in the degeneration and control groups (P < 0.01); the F content in the ligamenta flava and sera from patients with fluorosis was also significantly higher than in those from patients without fluorosis (P < 0.01). Compared with the control group, there were no differences in the F content in serum from patients without fluorosis; however, the F content in ligamenta flava specimens from patients without fluorosis was significantly higher (P < 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: There are trends in the contents of basic metabolic elements in the degeneration and ossification of ligamenta flava. These basic metabolic elements may play an important role in this process.