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Br J Radiol. 2015 Sep;88(1053):20140546. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20140546. Epub 2015 Jun 24.

MRI assessment of paraspinal muscles in patients with acute and chronic unilateral low back pain.

Author information

1
1 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
2
2 Department of Radiology, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate the changes in paraspinal muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and composition, using the digital data from lumbar spine MRIs of patients with acute and chronic low back pain (LBP).

METHODS:

In total, 178 patients with unilateral LBP who had lumbar MRI examination were recruited. The data were obtained by a retrospective documentation audit. The CSAs and mean signal intensities of the bilateral paraspinal muscles [psoas major (PM), quadratus lumborum, multifidus (MF) and erector spinae (ES)] were measured, and the percentage of fat infiltration was calculated. The data between the painful side and non-painful side were compared, and between-group comparisons were tested. 42 patients with chronic unilateral LBP could indicate the problem level, and the CSA and mean signal intensity of the MF muscle were analysed at the problem level, and one vertebral above and one vertebral level below the problem level.

RESULTS:

The CSAs of the PM and ES muscles were significantly decreased in the acute LBP group, while in the chronic LBP group, significant reduction in CSA was found in the MF and ES muscles on the painful side compared with the non-painful side. The mean signal intensity and fat content of the ES muscle on the painful side in the chronic LBP group was significantly higher than that on the painful side in the acute LBP group. The significant decrease of CSA in the MF muscle was found at multiple levels on the painful side.

CONCLUSION:

The present findings show that there is selective ipsilateral atrophy of paraspinal muscles, specific to the symptomatic side, in patients with acute and chronic LBP. The reduction of the muscle CSA and increased fatty infiltration occurred synchronously, and the extent of change is significantly greater in chronic LBP in the ES muscle. Atrophy of the MF muscle appears to be at multiple levels but side specific in relation to symptoms in patients with chronic LBP, and the decreased muscle CSA may occur prior to fatty infiltration.

ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE:

There are specific paraspinal muscles undergoing atrophy and fatty infiltration in patients with acute and chronic LBP on the symptomatic side. The CSA of the MF muscle decreased at multiple levels on the symptomatic side in patients with chronic unilateral LBP, which may occur prior to fatty infiltration.

PMID:
26105517
PMCID:
PMC4743557
DOI:
10.1259/bjr.20140546
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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