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European Spine Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 240–246 | Cite as

MRI findings are more common in selected patients with acute low back pain than controls?

  • Mark HancockEmail author
  • Chris Maher
  • Petra Macaskill
  • Jane Latimer
  • Walter Kos
  • Justin Pik
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to investigate if lumbar disc pathology identified on MRI scans is more common in patients with acute, likely discogenic, low back pain than matched controls.

Methods

We compared rates of MRI findings between 30 cases with low back pain and 30 pain-free controls. Cases were patients presenting for care with likely discogenic low back pain (demonstrated centralisation with repeated movement testing), of moderate intensity and with minimal past history of back pain. Controls were matched for age, gender and past history of back pain. Cases and controls underwent MRI scanning which was read for the presence of a range of MRI findings by two blinded assessors.

Results

The presence of disc degeneration, modic changes and disc herniation significantly altered the odds of a participant being a case or control. For example subjects were 5.2 times more likely to be a case than a control when disc degeneration grade of ≥3 was present, and 6.0 times more likely with modic changes. The presence of a high-intensity zone or annular tear was found to significantly alter odds for one assessor but not the other assessor.

Conclusion

MRI findings including disc degeneration, modic changes and herniation are more common in selected people with current acute (likely discogenic) low back pain than in controls without current low back pain. Further investigation of the value of MRI findings as prognostic factors and as treatment effect modifiers is required to assess the potential clinical importance of these findings.

Keywords

Low back pain Magnetic resonance imaging Case–control study Diagnosis Sensitivity Disc degeneration 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by Faculty of Health Sciences Grant, The University of Sydney.

Conflict of interest

None.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Hancock
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Maher
    • 2
  • Petra Macaskill
    • 3
  • Jane Latimer
    • 4
  • Walter Kos
    • 5
  • Justin Pik
    • 6
  1. 1.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.George Institute for Global Health and Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Screening and Test Evaluation Program, School of Public HealthUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.George Institute for Global HealthUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.FRANZCRDalcross Adventist HospitalSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.FRACS (Neuro)Neurospine ClinicCanberraAustralia

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