Study design: An in vivo study to radiographically and histologically assess a new method of induction of disc degeneration. OBJECTIVE.: To establish a reproducible rabbit model of disc degeneration by puncturing the anulus with needles of defined gauges and to compare it to the classic stab model.
Summary of background data: New treatment approaches to disc degeneration are of great interest. Although animal models for disc degenerative disease exist, the quantitative measurement of disease progression remains difficult. A reproducible, progressive disc degeneration model, which can be induced in a reasonable time frame, is essential for development of new therapeutic interventions.
Methods: The classic anular stab model and the new needle puncture model were used in the rabbit. For the needle puncture model, 3 different gauges of needle (16G, 18G, and 21G) were used to induce an injury to the disc to a depth of 5 mm. Radiographic and histologic analyses were performed; magnetic resonance images were also assessed in the needle puncture model.
Results: Significant disc space narrowing was observed as early as 2 weeks after stabbing in the classic stab model; there was no further narrowing of the disc space. In the needle puncture model, all needle sizes tested induced a slower and more progressive decrease in disc height than in the classic stab model. The magnetic resonance imaging supported the results of disc height data.
Conclusions: The needle puncture approach, using 16G to 21G needles, resulted in a reproducible decrease of disc height and magnetic resonance imaging grade. The ease of the procedure and transfer of the methodology will benefit researchers studying disc degeneration.