Anni Aavikko, Martina Lohman, Leena Ristolainen, Hannu Kautiainen, Kalevi Österman, Dietrich Schlenzka, Teija Lund

March 2022, pp 1 - 8 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07184-0

First Online: 25 March 2022


In this prospective observational cohort study, the development of lumbar intervertebral discs (LIVD) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was investigated from childhood to adulthood with emphasis on the possible association of disc degeneration (DD) to low back pain (LBP).


In 2021, 89 subjects who were enrolled in 1994 in a longitudinal study with lumbar spine MRI at ages 8, 11 and 18 were invited to participate in a long-term follow-up comprising a clinical examination, selected patient-reported outcome measures and a lumbar spine MRI. We assessed all MRIs (three lowest LIVDs) with the Pfirrmann summary score, and the ratio of signal intensity of nucleus pulposus to signal intensity of cerebrospinal fluid (SINDL). We further analyzed whether disc changes at any age were associated with self-reported LBP at age 34.


Of the 48 subjects in the follow-up, 35 reported LBP at age 34. The Pfirrmann summary score significantly increased with age (p < 0.001). Subjects reporting LBP at age 34 demonstrated statistically significantly higher summary scores at age 18 and 34 compared to asymptomatic subjects (p = 0.004 at age 18, and p = 0.039 at age 34). SINDL significantly decreased with age (p < 0.001 for all levels separately), but no significant differences between subjects with or without LBP at age 34 were noticed.


Subjects with LBP at age 34 had more widespread or severe DD already at age 18 compared to those without LBP.

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