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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2000 Dec 1;25(23):2993-3004.

Does long-term compressive loading on the intervertebral disc cause degeneration?

Author information

  • 1Department of Orthopaedics, Emory University School of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30033, USA. William_Hutton@Emory.org

Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Coil springs were stretched and attached to produce a compressive force across the lumbar intervertebral discs of dogs for up to 53 weeks.

OBJECTIVE:

To test the hypothesis that compressive forces applied to the intervertebral disc for a long period of time cause disc degeneration in vivo in a dog model.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA:

It is a commonly held belief that high forces applied to the intervertebral disc, and to joints in general, play a role in causing degeneration.

METHODS:

Coil springs were stretched and attached to produce a compressive force across the lumbar intervertebral discs (L3/L4) of 12 dogs. After up to a year, the dogs were killed, and their lumbar spines were removed and radiographed. The L3/L4 disc and the controls (T13/L1 and L4/L5) were excised and examined for visible signs of degeneration. The discs then were assessed using immunohistochemical analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Disc chondrocytes also were assayed for apoptosis.

RESULTS:

No obvious signs of degeneration in the discs (L3/L4) that had been under compression for up to a year could be observed. There was no disc bulging, anular fissures, or disc space narrowing. Some changes were observed at the microscopic level, although no thickening of the endplate was apparent. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay analysis provided significant data for all three regions of the disc (nucleus, inner anulus, and outer anulus). When comparing the compressed disc (L3/L4) with either of the control discs (T13/L1 and L4/L5), in the compressed disc: 1) the nucleus contained less proteoglycan and more collagen I and II; 2) the inner anulus contained less proteoglycan and collagen I; and 3) the outer anulus contained more proteoglycan and less collagen I. The collagen II differences for the inner and outer anulus were not significant.

CONCLUSION:

Compression applied to the lumbar intervertebral discs of dogs for up to a year does not produce degeneration in any visible form. It does produce microscopic changes and numerical changes, however, in the amounts of proteoglycan and collagen in the nucleus, inner anulus, and outer anulus. The present results add no credence to the commonly held belief that high compressive forces play a causative role in disc degeneration.

PMID:
11145810
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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