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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1997 Jul 15;22(14):1642-7; discussion 1648-9.

Disc degeneration/back pain and calcification of the abdominal aorta. A 25-year follow-up study in Framingham.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



A 25-year follow-up study of 606 members of the population-based Framingham cohort, who had received lateral lumbar radiographs in 1967-1968 and 1992-1993, and completed an interview on back symptoms at the second examination.


To evaluate whether calcific lesions in the posterior wall of the abdominal aorta, the source of the feeding arteries of the lumbar spine, are associated with disc degeneration or back pain, which would suggest that ischemia of the lumbar spine leads to disc degeneration.


The presence of radiographic aortic calcification was ascertained in front of each lumbar segment from L1 through L4, and disc degeneration at intervertebral spaces from L1-L2 through L4-L5. The associations between aortic calcification, disc degeneration, and back pain were tested using logistic regression with adjustment for age and sex.


At the baseline examination, aortic calcification was significantly associated with general disc degeneration, that is, disc space narrowing or endplate sclerosis at any lumbar level (odds ratio 1.6; 95% confidence interval 1.0-2.5; P = 0.034). In longitudinal, level-specific analyses, comparing local aortic calcifications with disc degeneration at the matching level, aortic calcifications predicted disc deterioration, that is, a decrease in disc space or appearance of endplate sclerosis, between the examinations (odds ratio 1.5; 95% confidence interval 1.3-1.8; P < 0.001). Furthermore, subjects in whom aortic calcifications developed between the examinations had disc deterioration twice as frequently as those in whom aortic calcifications did not develop (odds ratio 2.0; 96% confidence interval 1.2-3.5; P = 0.013). Also, individuals with severe (Grade 3) posterior aortic calcification in front of any lumbar segment were more likely than others to report back pain during adult life (odds ratio 1.6; 95% confidence interval 1.1-2.2; P = 0.014).


Advanced aortic atherosclerosis, presenting as calcific deposits in the posterior wall of the aorta, increases a person's risk for development of disc degeneration and is associated with the occurrence of back pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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