N. C. Gries, U. Berlemann, R. J. Moore, B. Vernon-Roberts

February 2000, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 23 - 29 Original article Read Full Article 10.1007/s005860050004

First Online: 25 February 2000

Biomechanical and histologic studies have highlighted the close functional relationship between lumbar discs and their associated facet joints, and it is conceivable that their degenerative changes are interdependent. However, separation of cause from effect remains controversial. Hitherto, no study in humans has correlated the changes histologically. The present study assessed histologic changes in lower lumbar discs and their associated facet joints in patients under the age of 40 years using classification systems developed for this investigation. A specific objective was to correlate changes in discs and facet joints. Data from 15 lower lumbar spine specimens were obtained. Three parasagittal sections per disc and one section per facet joint were graded histologically. The results were correlated with age, within the functional spinal unit (FSU), and with the adjacent level. Histologic changes were found in discs and facet joints from all FSUs. There was no correlation between the age of the subject and the degree of degeneration of the disc or facet joints at either level. The extent of disc degeneration at L4/5 correlated significantly with changes at L5/S1 (P

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