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Eur Spine J. 2005 Aug;14(6):573-7. Epub 2005 Jan 25.

Discogenic pain in acute nonspecific low-back pain.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Sendai Orthopaedic Hospital, 24 Higashidoori Aza Izai Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai 984-0038, Japan.


Acute nonspecific low-back pain is characterized by the sudden onset and severe unendurable low-back pain without radicular pain or neurological deficit in the lower extremities. The study was carried out using 55 patients who visited our hospital for acute nonspecific low-back pain, who exhibited degeneration on T2-weighted MR images, and underwent intradiscal injection of local anesthetics,steroid and contrast medium. Intervertebral disc sites with an obvious enhanced region in the posterior annulus of the disc on enhanced T1-weighted MR images was selected for intradiscal injection. When no enhanced region was detected, the most severely degenerated disc on T2-weighted MR images was selected. Acute nonspecific low-back pain with an improvement rate of 70% or higher 5 min after injection was judged to be discogenic. The clinical characteristics and pathogenesis of discogenic acute nonspecific low-back pain were investigated. Forty of the 55 patients (73%) had discogenic acute nonspecific low-back pain. As for the characteristics of patients, the mean age was 37 years, and onset occurred upon casual daily movements in 18 patients (45%). Nineteen patients (48%) had bilateral low-back pain, and 29 patients (73%) had no tenderness in the paravertebral muscles. On plain X-ray radiograms, degeneration of the disc was normal or mild in 36 patients(91%). On the discograms, a radial tear extending to the posterior annulus was noted in all patients, but epidural leakage was seen only in six patients (15%). The degree of disc degeneration on T2-weighted MR images (Gibson's classification) was grade 3 in 30 patients (75%). Gadolinium-DTPA enhanced T1-weighted MR images showed an obvious enhanced region in the posterior annulus of the intervertebral disc in 19 patients (48%). As for the clinical characteristics of discogenic acute nonspecific low-back pain, the relatively young adult patients had no tenderness in the paravertebral muscles, and showed moderately degenerated intervertebral discs. The pathogenesis of discogenic acute nonspecific low-back pain is mostly considered to be a re-rupture in an asymptomatic ruptured region in the posterior annulus, repaired by granulation tissue, in a moderately degenerated intervertebral disc with a radial tear.

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