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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2011 Feb 2;93(3):225-9. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.J.00276.

Evidence for an inherited predisposition to lumbar disc disease.

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Department of Orthopaedics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.



A genetic predisposition for the development of symptomatic lumbar disc disease has been suggested by several twin sibling studies and subsequent genetic marker studies. The purpose of the present study was to define population-based familial clustering among individuals with a diagnosis of, or treated for, lumbar disc herniation or disc degeneration.


The Utah Population Database allows analysis of combined health and genealogic data for over one million Utah residents. We used the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, diagnosis codes entered in patient records to identify patients with a diagnosis of either lumbar disc herniation or lumbar disc degeneration and genealogic data. The hypothesis of excess relatedness (familial clustering) was tested with use of the Genealogical Index of Familiality, which compares the average relatedness of affected individuals with expected population relatedness. Relative risks in relatives were estimated by comparing rates of disease in relatives with expected population rates (estimated from the relatives of matched controls). This methodology has been previously reported for other disease conditions but not for spinal diseases.


The Genealogical Index of Familiality test for 1264 patients with lumbar disc disease showed a significant excess relatedness (p < 0.001). Relative risk in relatives was significantly elevated in both first-degree (relative risk, 4.15; p < 0.001) and third-degree relatives (relative risk, 1.46; p = 0.027).


Excess relatedness of affected individuals and elevated risks to both near and distant relatives was observed, strongly supporting a heritable contribution to the development of symptomatic lumbar disc disease.

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