Jun-zhe Ding, Chao Kong, Xiang-yu Li, Xiang-yao Sun, Shi-bao Lu, Guo-gunag Zhao

March 2022, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 764 - 773 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-07053-2

First Online: 03 January 2022

Study design

A retrospective study.


To evaluate the different degeneration patterns of paraspinal muscles in degenerative lumbar diseases and their correlation with lumbar spine degeneration severity.

Summary of background data

The degeneration characteristics of different paraspinal muscles in degenerative lumbar diseases remain unclear.


78 patients diagnosed with single-level degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DLS) and 76 patients with degenerative lumbar kyphosis (DLK) were included as DLS and DLK groups. Paraspinal muscle parameters of psoas major (PS), erector spinae (ES) and multifidus muscle (MF) were measured, including fatty infiltration (FI) and relative cross-sectional area (rCSA), namely the ratio of the paraspinal muscle CSA to the CSA of the vertebrae of the same segment. Sagittal parameters including lumbar lordosis (LL) and sagittal vertical axis (SVA) were measured. The paraspinal muscle parameters and ES/MF rCSA ratio were compared between the two groups. Paraspinal muscles parameters including rCSA and FI were also compared between each segments from L1 to L5 in both DLS and DLK groups. In order to determine the influence of sagittal spinal alignment on paraspinal muscle parameters, correlation analysis was conducted between the MF, ES, PS rCSA and FI and the LL in DLS and DLK group.


MF atrophy is more significant in DLS patients compared with DLK. Also, MF fatty infiltration in the lower lumbar spine of DLS patients was greater compared to DLK patients. DLK patients showed more significant atrophy of ES and heavier ES fatty infiltration. MF FI was significantly different between all adjacent segments in both DLS and DLK groups. In DLS group, ES FI was significantly different between L2/L3 to L3/L4 and L4/L5 to L5/S1, while in DLK group, the difference of ES FI between all adjacent segments was not significant, and ES FI was found negatively correlated with LL.


Paraspinal muscles show different degeneration patterns in degenerative lumbar diseases. MF degeneration is segmental in both DLS and DLK patients, while ES degenerated diffusely in DLK patients and correlated with the severity of kyphosis. MF degeneration is more significant in the DLS group, while ES degeneration is more significant in DLK patients. MF is the stabilizer of the lumbar spine segments, while the ES tends to maintain the spinal sagittal balance.

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