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Br J Radiol. 1992 May;65(773):361-9.

High-intensity zone: a diagnostic sign of painful lumbar disc on magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Diagnostic Conservative Management, New Orleans.


The prevalence, validity and reliability of high-intensity zones in the annulus fibrosus seen on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images of patients with intractable low-back pain were determined. This sign was readily recognized by two independent observers. It occurred in 28% of 500 patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging for back pain. The presence of a high-intensity zone correlated significantly with the presence of Grade 4 annular disruption and with reproduction of the patient's pain. Its sensitivity as a sign of either annular disruption or pain was modest but its specificity was high, and its positive predictive value for a severely disrupted, symptomatic disc was 86%. This sign is diagnostic of painful internal disc disruption.

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