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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2015

Risk factors for lumbar intervertebral disc height narrowing: a population-based longitudinal study in the elderly

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2015
Koji Akeda, Tomomi Yamada, Nozomu Inoue, Akinobu Nishimura, Akihiro Sudo
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KA conceived of this study and participated in the study design, and performed data acquisition, analysis and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript. TY participated in the interpretation of data, performed statistical analyses, and critically revised the manuscript. NI developed and programmed the image analysis software, participated in the interpretation of data, and helped to draft the manuscript. AN directed the medical examinations, performed data acquisition, and critically revised the manuscript. AS contributed to the study design and coordination, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



The progression of disc degeneration is generally believed to be associated with low back pain and/or degenerative lumbar diseases, especially in the elderly. The purpose of this study was to quantitatively evaluate changes in lumbar disc height using radiographic measurements and to investigate risk factors for development of disc height narrowing of the elderly.


From 1997 to 2007, 197 village inhabitants at least 65 years-old who participated in baseline examinations and more than four follow-up examinations conducted every second year were chosen as subjects for this study. Using lateral lumbar spine radiographs of each subject, L1-L2 to L5-S1 disc heights were measured. The subjects were divided into two groups according to the rate of change in disc height: mildly decreased (≤20 % decrease) and severely decreased (>20 % decrease). A stepwise multiple logistic regression analysis was used to select those factors significantly associated with disc height narrowing.


Disc height at each intervertebral disc (IVD) level decreased gradually over ten years (p < 0.01, an average 5.8 % decrease of all disc levels). There was no significant difference in the rate of change in disc height among the IVD levels. Female gender, radiographic knee osteoarthritis and low back pain at baseline were associated with increased risk for disc height narrowing.


We conducted the first population-based cohort study of the elderly that quantitatively evaluated lumbar disc height using radiographic measurements. The risk factors identified in this study would contribute to a further understanding the pathology of disc degeneration.
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