A novel rabbit model of mild, reproducible disc degeneration by an anulus needle puncture: correlation between the degree of disc injury and radiological and histological appearances of disc degeneration

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005 Jan 1;30(1):5-14. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000148152.04401.20.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthrography / standards
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Intervertebral Disc / diagnostic imaging
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Needles
  • Rabbits*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Wounds, Stab