Prevalence and distribution of intervertebral disc degeneration over the entire spine in a population-based cohort: the Wakayama Spine Study

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2014 Jan;22(1):104-10. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.10.019. Epub 2013 Nov 14.


Objectives: The purposes of this study were to investigate the prevalence and distribution of intervertebral disc degeneration (DD) over the entire spine using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to examine the factors and symptoms potentially associated with DD.

Design: This study included 975 participants (324 men, mean age of 67.2 years; 651 women, mean age of 66.0 years) with an age range of 21-97 years in the Wakayama Spine Study. DD on MRI was classified into Pfirrmann's system (grades 4 and 5 indicating DD). We assessed the prevalence of DD at each level in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions and the entire spine, and examined DD-associated factors and symptoms.

Results: The prevalence of DD over the entire spine was 71% in men and 77% in women aged <50 years, and >90% in both men and women aged >50 years. The prevalence of an intervertebral space with DD was highest at C5/6 (men: 51.5%, women: 46%), T6/7 (men: 32.4%, women: 37.7%), and L4/5 (men: 69.1%, women: 75.8%). Age and obesity were associated with the presence of DD in all regions. Low back pain was associated with the presence of DD in the lumbar region.

Conclusion: The current study established the baseline data of DD over the entire spine in a large population of elderly individuals. These data provide the foundation for elucidating the causes and mechanisms of DD.

Keywords: Distribution; Entire spine; Intervertebral disc degeneration; Magnetic resonance imaging; Population-based cohort; Prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / epidemiology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / etiology
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / pathology
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology
  • Young Adult