Determinants of evolution of endplate and disc degeneration in the lumbar spine: a multifactorial perspective

Eur Spine J. 2014 Sep;23(9):1863-8. doi: 10.1007/s00586-014-3382-z. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Purpose: Evolution and progression of disc and endplate bone marrow degeneration of the lumbar spine are thought to be multifactorial, yet, their influence and interactions are not understood. The aim of this study was to find association of potential predictors of evolution of degeneration of the lumbar spine.

Methods: Patients (n = 90) who underwent two lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams with an interval of at least 4 years and without any spinal surgery were included into the longitudinal cohort study with nested case-control analysis. Disc degeneration (DD) was scored according to the Pfirrmann classification and endplate bone marrow changes (EC) according to Modic in 450 levels on both MRIs. Potential variables for degeneration such as age, gender, BMI, scoliosis and sagittal parameters were compared between patients with and without evolution or progression of degenerative changes in their lumbar spine. A multivariate analysis aimed to identify the most important variables for progression of disc and endplate degeneration, respectively.

Results: While neither age, gender, BMI, sacral slope or the presence of scoliosis could be identified as progression factor for DD, a higher lordosis was observed in subjects with no progression (49° ± 11° vs 43° ± 12°; p = 0.017). Progression or evolution of EC was only associated with a slightly higher degree of scoliosis (10° ± 10° vs 6° ± 9°; p = 0.04) and not to any of the other variables.

Conclusion: While a coronal deformity of the lumbar spine seems associated with evolution or progression of EC, a higher lumbar lordosis is protective for radiographic progression of DD. This implies that scoliotic deformity and lesser lumbar lordosis are associated with higher overall degeneration of the lumbar spine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / pathology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lordosis / pathology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Lumbosacral Region / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / pathology*