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Skeletal Radiol. 2013 Nov;42(11):1593-602. doi: 10.1007/s00256-013-1700-x. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Do more MRI findings imply worse disability or more intense low back pain? A cross-sectional study of candidates for lumbar disc prosthesis.

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Department of Radiology, Haukeland University Hospital, Jonas Liesvei 65, 5021, Bergen, Norway,



To examine whether combined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings are related to the degree of disability and low back pain (LBP) in candidates for lumbar disc prosthesis surgery.


This cross-sectional study included 170 disc prosthesis candidates (mean age 41 years; 88 women) with chronic non-radicular LBP and localized disc degeneration. Experienced radiologists rated Modic changes and disc findings at L4-S1 on pre-treatment MRIs. An MRI total score (0-10) for findings at L4/L5 plus L5/S1 was calculated for Modic type I and/or II changes, a posterior high intensity zone (HIZ) in the disc, dark/black nucleus pulposus signal, and ≥40 % disc height decrease. We analyzed the relationship of the MRI total score to the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) (n = 170) and LBP intensity scores (0-100 visual analogue scale, n = 165) using multiple linear regression and adjusting for age, gender, body mass index, smoking, and anxiety/depression.


The MRI total score was not related to ODI (regression coefficient 0.12, p = 0.79) or LBP intensity (regression coefficient 0.64, p = 0.37). When individual MRI findings were analyzed, patients with HIZ at L5/S1 had slightly lower ODI scores (4.7 points, p = 0.02). In post hoc analyses, results remained unchanged after adding facet arthropathy to the MRI total score and adjusting also for physical workload and physical leisure-time activity.


The combined MRI findings were not related to the degree of disability or the intensity of LBP. These degenerative MRI findings cannot explain variation in pre-treatment disability and pain in patients with chronic LBP accepted for disc prosthesis surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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