Quantitative analysis of diurnal variation in volume and water content of lumbar intervertebral discs

Clin Anat. 1998;11(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2353(1998)11:1<1::AID-CA1>3.0.CO;2-Z.


The Cavalieri method of modern design stereology has been used in combination with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain unbiased estimates of the volume of the lumbar intervertebral discs immediately at the end of a day of normal activity and again following a night's rest. In addition, pixel-by-pixel mapping of the T2-relaxation time has been used to characterize objectively the tissues of the intervertebral discs. The mean increase in height of seven female subjects of average age 21 years (range 19-23 years) measured with a stediometer was 19.3 mm (range 8-26 mm). Image analysis showed that the mean overnight increase in volume of lumbar discs was 1300 mm3 (range 100-2700 mm3). The increase in volume of the disc was accompanied by an increase in the T2-relaxation time of the nucleus pulposus. This suggests that the change in disc volume is most probably caused by a preferential increase in the water content of the nucleus pulposus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Height / physiology
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intervertebral Disc / anatomy & histology
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging