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J Orthop Res. 2017 Jan;35(1):123-130. doi: 10.1002/jor.23283. Epub 2016 May 20.

Lumbar disc degeneration is an equally important risk factor as lumbar fusion for causing adjacent segment disc disease.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, 1611 West Harrison Street, Chicago 60612-3833, Illinois.


Treatment of degenerative spinal disorders by fusion produces abnormal mechanical conditions at mobile segments above or below the site of spinal disorders and is clinically referred to as adjacent segments disc disease (ASDD) or transition syndrome in the case of a previous surgical treatment. The aim of the current study is to understand with the help of poro-elastic finite element models how single or two level degeneration of lower lumbar levels influences motions at adjacent levels and compare the findings to motions produced by single or two level fusions when the adjacent disk has varying degree of degeneration. Validated grade-specific finite element models including varying grades of disc degeneration at lower lumbar levels with and without fusion were developed and used to determine motions at all levels of the lumbar spine due to applied moment loads. Results showed that adjacent disc motions do depend on severity of disc degeneration, number of disc degenerated or fused, and level at which degeneration or fusion occurred. Furthermore, single level degeneration and single level fusion produced similar amount of adjacent disc motions. The pattern of increase in adjacent segment motions due to disc degeneration and increase in motions at segment adjacent to fusion was similar. Based on the current study, it can be concluded that disc degeneration should also be considered as a risk factor in addition to fusion for generating adjacent disc degeneration. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 35:123-130, 2017.


adjacent disc disease; degenerated discs; finite element model; fusion; risk factors

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