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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1998 Sep;80(5):833-9.

Changes in the disc space after fractures of the thoracolumbar spine.

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University Hospital, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


We have studied the intervertebral discs adjacent to fractured vertebral bodies using MRI in 63 patients at a minimum of 18 months after injury. There were 75 thoracolumbar fractures of which 26 were treated conservatively and 37 by posterior reduction and fusion with an AO internal fixator. We identified six different types of disc using criteria based on the morphology and the intensity of the MRI signal. The inter- and intraobserver variability of this system was good. Most of the discs showed predominantly morphological changes with no variation in signal intensity. Some disc types were associated with progressive kyphosis in patients treated conservatively. In those managed by operation, recurrent kyphosis appeared to result from creeping of the disc in the central depression of the bony endplate rather than from disc degeneration. Changes in the disc space after posterior fixation should not be seen as a form of chronic instability but as a redistribution of the disc tissue in the changed morphology of the space after fractures of the endplate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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