Background: To investigate the distribution and characteristics of the lumbar intervertebral disc height (IDH) in asymptomatic Asian population and to determine whether the lumbar IDH is related to the lumbar spine sagittal alignment.
Methods: A cohort of 169 cases of asymptomatic volunteers was enrolled from January 2014 to July 2016. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine and panoramic radiography of the spine. Panoramic radiographs of the spine were taken to evaluate pelvic incidence (PI), sacral slope (SS), and pelvic tilt (PT) using Surgimap® software. Roussouly classification was utilized to categorize all subjects according to the four subtypes of sagittal alignment. The IDH was measured on the MRI mid-saggital section of the vertebral body. The relationships between lumbar IDH and spine-pelvic parameters were also assessed using the Spearman correlation analysis.
Results: The reference value ranges of IDH in asymptomatic Asian volunteers between L1/2, L2/3, L3/4, L4/5, and L5/S1 were (6.25, 10.99), (6.97, 12.08), (7.42, 13.3), (7.76, 14.57),and (7.11, 13.12) mm, respectively. Based on the above reference value, the high lumbar intervertebral space is defined as more than 14 mm. According to the Roussouly Classification, there are 33 cases in type I, 48 in type II, 66 in type III, and 22 in type IV. According to the definition of the high IDH, there are two cases in type I, three in type II, nine in type III, and eight in type IV. The results indicated that people in the Roussouly III and IV subtypes had greater values for IDH compared to those of Roussouly I and II subtypes, and the spinopelvic parameters were partly correlated with IDH in different subtypes. In addition, levels L4-L5 showed the highest IDH for all four groups followed by the L3-L4 and L5-S1 levels, and the value of L3-L4 is equivalent to that of L5-S1. All type groups showed moderate and positive correlations between the PI and IDH except the level of L1-L2 in type IV.
Conclusions: The IDH may influence the lumbar spine sagittal alignment in asymptomatic Asian adults. Moreover, pre-operative evaluation of IDH is useful for selection of optimal cage size and reconstruction of spinal alignment.
Keywords: Intervertebral disc height; Lumbar spine sagittal alignment; Pelvic incidence; Roussouly classification.