Youping Tao, Fabio Galbusera, Frank Niemeyer, Dino Samartzis, Daniel Vogele, Hans-Joachim Wilke

February 2021, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 431 - 443 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06615-0

First Online: 06 October 2020


The aims of this study were (1) to determine the prevalence of radiographic cervical disc degeneration in a large population of patients aged from 18 to 97 years; (2) to investigate individually the prevalence and distribution of height loss, osteophyte formation, endplate sclerosis and spondylolisthesis; and (3) to describe the patterns of cervical disc degeneration.


A retrospective study was performed. Standard lateral cervical spine radiographs in standing, neutral position of 1581 consecutive patients (723 males, 858 females) with an average age of 41.2 ± 18.2 years were evaluated. Cervical disc degeneration was graded from C2/C3 to C6/C7 based on a validated quantitative grading system. The prevalence and distribution of radiographic findings were evaluated and associations with age were investigated.


53.9% of individuals had radiographic disc degeneration and the most affected level was C5/C6. The presence and severity of disc degeneration were found to be significantly associated with age both in male and female subjects. The most frequent and severe occurrences of height loss, osteophyte formation, and endplate sclerosis were at C5/C6, whereas spondylolisthesis was most observed at C4/C5. Age was significantly correlated with radiographic degenerative findings. Contiguous levels degeneration pattern was more likely found than skipped level degeneration. The number of degenerated levels was also associated with age.


The presence and severity of radiographic disc degeneration increased with aging in the cervical spine. Older age was associated with greater number of degenerated disc levels. Furthermore, the correlations between age and the degree of degenerative findings were stronger at C5/C6 and C6/C7 than at other cervical spinal levels.

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