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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1988 Jun;13(6):671-5.

Annular protrusion: pathophysiology and roentgenographic appearance.

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Graduate Hospital Disc Treatment and Research Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


The degenerative changes of the lumbar spine in 100 patients with symptomatic low-back pain were reviewed using plain roentgenograms and computed tomographic scans in order to determine the relationship between degeneration and annular protrusion. Additionally, the lumbar spinal units of 25 fresh cadavers were roentgenographed, injected with a mixture of methylene blue and renografin-60, dissected, and studied. The state of degeneration of each of the intervertebral units of both groups was graded on a four-point scale based on the roentgenographic presence or absence of osteophytes and facet joint changes, and the intervertebral disc height. The degree of annular protrusion was measured by dividing the anteroposterior diameter of the intervertebral disc by the anteroposterior diameter of the vertebral plate as determined on the radiographic studies. In the clinical group, 39 intervertebral discs having Grade II and III degeneration exhibited a statistically higher annular/vertebral diameter ratio (A/V index) of 1.30 as compared to the normal invertebral discs, with an A/V index of 1.12 (P less than 0.001). The dissection of the disc spaces of the cadavers with radiographic evidence of disc space narrowing and marginal osteophytosis, Grade II and III degeneration, displayed significant interruption and tearing of the annular fibers and peripheral migration of collagenized nuclear fragments. In both the clinical and pathologic groups, there was a direct correlation between the size of the annular bulge, as indicated in the A/V index, and the degree of narrowing of the disc space. Therefore, this study indicated that annular protrusion is an intricate part of the degeneration process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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