Temporal evolution of disc in young patients with low back pain and stress reaction in lumbar vertebrae

A. Sharma, K. Sargar, A. Salter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUNDANDPURPOSE: Although stress-induced bony changes often resolve with conservative treatment, the long-term effects of such mechanical stresses on intervertebral discs have not been studied. We aimed to assess the differences in the temporal evolution of disc in segments of the lumbar spine with and without signs of increased mechanical stresses. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using MR imaging performed >6 months apart, 2 radiologists evaluated lumbar intervertebral discs for degenerative changes affecting the annulus fibrosus, the nucleus pulposus, and the endplates in 42 patients (22 male, 20 female; mean age, 16.0 ± 3.7 years [range, 7-25 years]) with low back pain and imaging evidence of stress reaction/fracture in the lumbar spine. Data were analyzed for differences in the presence and progression of disc degeneration in stressed versus nonstressed segments. RESULTS: At baseline, stressed discs had a higher burden of annular fissures, radial fissures, herniation, and nuclear degeneration. Endplate defect burden was comparable in stressed and control discs. At follow-up, the burden of new annular fissures and endplate defects was comparable for stressed and control discs. However, a higher proportion of stressed discs showed worsening nuclear signal intensity grade (14.3% versus 0% control discs; P = .008) and worsening nuclear degeneration grade (11.9% versus 0% control discs; P = .02). An increased risk of progressive nuclear degeneration of stressed discs was observed irrespective of the outcome of bony changes. CONCLUSIONS: Stressed discs exhibit a higher burden of nuclear and annular degeneration at baseline. These discs have a higher risk of progressive nuclear degeneration irrespective of improvement or worsening of stress-related bony changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1647-1652
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


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