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J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2017 Sep 1;17(3):140-145.

T2-relaxation time increases in lumbar intervertebral discs after 21d head-down tilt bed-rest.

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University of Cologne, Department of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, Kerpener Str. 62, D-50937 Cologne, Germany.



Spaceflight back pain and intervertebral disc (IVD) herniations cause problems in astronauts. Purpose of this study was to assess changes in T2-relaxation-time through MRI measurements before and after head-down tilt bed-rest, a spaceflight analog.


8 men participated in the bed-rest study. Subjects remained in 6° head down tilt bed-rest in two campaigns of 21 days, and received a nutritional intervention (potassium bicarbonate 90 mmol/d) in a cross-over design. MRI measurements were performed 2 days before bed-rest, as well as one and five days after getting up. Image segmentation and data analysis were conducted for the IVDs Th12/L1 to L5/S1.


7 subjects, average age of 27.6 (SD 3.3) years, completed the study. Results showed a significant increase in T2-time in all IVDs (p⟨0.001), more pronounced in the nucleus pulposus than in the annulus fibrosus (p⟨0.001). Oral potassium bicarbonate did not show an effect (p=0.443). Pfirrmann-grade correlated with the T2-time (p⟨0.001).


6° head-down tilt bed-rest leads to a T2-time increase in lumbar IVDs. Oral potassium bicarbonate supplementation does not have an effect on IVD T2-time.

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