Association of abdominal obesity with lumbar disc degeneration--a magnetic resonance imaging study

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56244. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056244. Epub 2013 Feb 13.


Purpose: To evaluate whether midsagittal (abdominal) obesity in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), waist circumference (WC) and body fat percentage are associated with lumbar disc degeneration in early adulthood.

Methods: We obtained the lumbar MRI (1.5-T scanner) of 325 females and 233 males at a mean age of 21 years. Lumbar disc degeneration was evaluated using Pfirrmann classification. We analysed the associations of MRI measures of obesity (abdominal diameter (AD), sagittal diameter (SAD), ventral subcutaneous thickness (VST), and dorsal subcutaneous thickness (DST)), WC and body fat percentage with disc degeneration sum scores using ordinal logistic regression.

Results: A total of 155 (48%) females and 147 (63%) males had disc degeneration. AD and SAD were associated with a disc degeneration sum score of ≥3 compared to disc degeneration sum score of 0-2 (OR 1.67; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.20-2.33 and OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.12-1.75, respectively) among males, but we found no association among females. WC was also associated with disc degeneration among males (OR 1.03 per one cm; 95% CI 1.00-1.05), but not among females.

Conclusion: Measures of abdominal obesity in MRI and waist circumference were associated with disc degeneration among 21-year-old males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / etiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Obesity, Abdominal / complications
  • Obesity, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The first author acknowledges the TBGS (National Graduate School of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Biomaterials) and the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation for their financial support. This study was partly funded by the Academy of Finland (grants 121620 and 129504). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.