Molecular MR imaging for the evaluation of the effect of dynamic stabilization on lumbar intervertebral discs

Eur Spine J. 2009 Jun;18 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):40-8. doi: 10.1007/s00586-009-0996-7. Epub 2009 Apr 25.


The dynamic stabilization of lumbar spine is a non-fusion stabilization system that unloads the disc without the complete loss of motion at the treated motion segment. Clinical outcomes are promising but still not definitive, and the long-term effect on instrumented and adjacent levels is still a matter of discussion. Several experiments have been devised in order to gain a better understanding of the effect of the device on the intervertebral disc. One of the hypotheses was that while instrumented levels are partially relieved from loading, adjacent levels suffer from the increased stress. But this has not been proved yet. The aim of this study was to investigate the long-term effect of dynamic stabilization in vivo, through the quantification of glycosaminoglycans (GAG) concentration within instrumented and adjacent levels by means of the delayed Gadolinium-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cartilage (dGEMRIC) protocol. Ten patients with low back pain, unresponsive to conservative treatment and scheduled for Dynesys implantation at one to three lumbar spine levels, underwent the dGEMRIC protocol to quantify GAG concentration before and 6 months after surgery. Each patient was also evaluated with visual analog scale (VAS), Oswestry, Prolo, Modic and Pfirrmann scales, both at pre-surgery and at follow-up. Six months after implantation, VAS, Prolo and Oswestry scales had improved in all patients. Pfirrmann scale could not detect any change, while dGEMRIC data already showed a general improvement in the instrumented levels: GAG was increased in 61% of the instrumented levels, while 68% of the non-instrumented levels showed a decrease in GAG, mainly in the posterior disc portion. In particular, seriously GAG-depleted discs seemed to have the greatest benefit from the Dynesys implantation, whereas less degenerated discs underwent a GAG depletion. dGEMRIC was able to visualize changes in both instrumented and non-instrumented levels. Our results suggest that the dynamic stabilization of lumbar spine is able to stop and partially reverse the disc degeneration, especially in seriously degenerated discs, while incrementing the stress on the adjacent levels, where it induces a matrix suffering and an early degeneration.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contrast Media
  • Equipment Design / methods
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fibrocartilage / anatomy & histology
  • Fibrocartilage / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / analysis
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / anatomy & histology
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery*
  • Joint Instability / pathology
  • Joint Instability / surgery
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Pain Measurement
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostheses and Implants / trends
  • Prosthesis Design / methods
  • Prosthesis Failure
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation
  • Spinal Fusion / methods
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology


  • Contrast Media
  • Glycosaminoglycans