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September 6, 1965

Anomaly of the Vertebral Column (Klippel-Feil Syndrome) in American Aborigines

JAMA. 1965;193(10):843-844. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090100089038

IN 1912 Klippe1 and Feil1 described a case of extensive vertebral anomaly characterized by apparent absence of cervical vertebrae. (A slightly earlier and less complete description was reported by Barclay-Smith.2 The entire spinal column contained only twelve clearly distinguishable vertebrae, but its uppermost part was an osseous mass evidently formed by the fusion of several vertebral elements. A distinct atlas and axis could not be found. The first four pairs of ribs were partly fused at their origin.

As the Klippel-Feil syndrome was elaborated,3-5 it was recognized to include marked shortening of the neck, the occiput being near the shoulders; fusions of vertebrae en bloc at various levels of the column; presence of hemivertebrae and fragments; anomalies of ribs; and anomalous segmentation of the spinal cord.

In 1938 Jarcho and Levin6 described the syndrome in two American Negro children, a sister and a brother, whose mother

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