In this investigation the association of radial tears of the anulus fibrosus and bulging of the intervertebral disk was studied. An index of disk bulging was measured in sagittal anatomic sections in 149 lumbar disks from 31 cadavers. The indexes of disk bulging were correlated with stages of disk development and the presence of an annular tear. The largest disk-bulging indexes were always associated with radial tears of the anulus. Eighty-four percent of the disks with radial tears had disk-bulging indexes greater than 2.5 mm. Most normal adult disks had an index of less than 2.5 mm. The results challenge the concept that the anulus fibrosus is intact in bulging disks, although ruptured in herniated disks.