(HealthDay News) — Patients with back pain and degenerative disc disease (DDD) have different patterns of lumbar disc degeneration than patients with disc prolapse (DP), according to a study published in the February 1 issue of The Spine Journal.

Rishi M. Kanna, from Ganga Hospital in Coimbatore, India, and colleagues analyzed the patterns of lumbar disc degeneration in two groups of patients (aged 20–50 years): 131 patients with chronic back pain and DDD and 91 patients needing a single level microdiscectomy for acute DP. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess the discs.

The researchers found that the number, extent, and severity of degeneration differed significantly for DP and DDD patients. The number of degenerated discs was significantly higher in DDD patients than in DP patients. The DDD group also had significantly higher incidence of multilevel and pan-lumbar degeneration. Upper lumbar involvement was predominant in DDD patients, whereas DP patients had mostly lower lumbar degeneration. In DP patients, modic changes were frequently observed, particularly at the prolapsed level. In both groups, the total end-plate damage score correlated positively with disc degeneration.

“The results suggest that patients with disc prolapse, and those with back pain with DDD are clinically and radiologically different groups of patients with varying patterns, severity, and extent of disc degeneration,” the authors write.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)