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Lumbar paraspinal muscle fat infiltration is independently associated with sex, age, and inter-vertebral disc degeneration in symptomatic patients

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To determine the association of paraspinal muscles and psoas relative cross-sectional area (RCSA) and fat signal fraction (FSF) with sex, age, and intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) in symptomatic patients.


We retrospectively evaluated 80 adult patients with spinal symptoms using T2-weighted magnetic resonance images. We determined RCSA and FSF of the paraspinal muscles (erector spinae and multifidus) and psoas from L1–L2 to L5–S1; we determined IDD using the Pfirrmann classification. We compared differences in muscle RCSA and FSF based on sex and IDD, and we correlated age and IDD with RCSA and FSF. Using multivariate linear regression analyses, we determined the impact of sex, age, and IDD on RCSA and FSF.


Men exhibited larger psoas RCSA but not larger paraspinal muscles RCSA than women. Women had larger FSF in the paraspinal muscles and psoas. Increasing IDD was associated with larger FSF if ≥2 Pfirrmann grades were observed. IDD correlated with FSF of the paraspinal muscles, and age correlated with FSF of the paraspinal muscles and psoas. IDD was less consistently correlated with RCSA, but age correlated negatively with RCSA of all three muscles. Linear regression analyses demonstrated that sex, age, and IDD were each independently associated with FSF of the paraspinal muscles; additionally, sex and age, but not IDD, were associated with psoas FSF. RCSA was less consistently influenced by these three variables.


Sex, age, and IDD are independently associated with paraspinal muscles FSF; only sex and age influence psoas FSF.

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CONICYT FONDEF/I Concurso IDeA en dos etapas ID15I10284.

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Correspondence to Julio Urrutia.

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Urrutia, J., Besa, P., Lobos, D. et al. Lumbar paraspinal muscle fat infiltration is independently associated with sex, age, and inter-vertebral disc degeneration in symptomatic patients. Skeletal Radiol 47, 955–961 (2018).

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