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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Brinjikji 2015.

Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations

updated
Brinjikji W, Luetmer PH, Comstock B, Bresnahan BW, Chen LE, Deyo RA, Halabi S, Turner JA, Avins AL, James K, Wald JT, Kallmes DF, Jarvik JG. Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2015 Apr;36(4):811–6. PubMed #25430861.
Tags: back pain, spine, arthritis, aging, neck, etiology, biomechanics, pain problems, head/neck, pro

PainSci summary of Brinjikji 2015?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Signs of degeneration are present in high percentages of healthy people with no symptoms. “Many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging and unassociated with pain.” And yet! See the authors’ other paper, in a later issue of the journal (Brinjikji), importantly concludes the “opposite”: that degenerative features are nevertheless “more prevalent in adults 50 years of age or younger with back pain compared with asymptomatic individuals.”

In other words, abnormalities matter less than many patients and professionals still assume, but they still do matter.

original abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Degenerative changes are commonly found in spine imaging but often occur in pain-free individuals as well as those with back pain. We sought to estimate the prevalence, by age, of common degenerative spine conditions by performing a systematic review studying the prevalence of spine degeneration on imaging in asymptomatic individuals.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a systematic review of articles reporting the prevalence of imaging findings (CT or MR imaging) in asymptomatic individuals from published English literature through April 2014. Two reviewers evaluated each manuscript. We selected age groupings by decade (20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years), determining age-specific prevalence estimates. For each imaging finding, we fit a generalized linear mixed-effects model for the age-specific prevalence estimate clustering in the study, adjusting for the midpoint of the reported age interval.

RESULTS: Thirty-three articles reporting imaging findings for 3110 asymptomatic individuals met our study inclusion criteria. The prevalence of disk degeneration in asymptomatic individuals increased from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-old individuals. Disk bulge prevalence increased from 30% of those 20 years of age to 84% of those 80 years of age. Disk protrusion prevalence increased from 29% of those 20 years of age to 43% of those 80 years of age. The prevalence of annular fissure increased from 19% of those 20 years of age to 29% of those 80 years of age.

CONCLUSIONS: Imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals, increasing with age. Many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging and unassociated with pain. These imaging findings must be interpreted in the context of the patient's clinical condition.

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These eight articles on PainScience.com cite Brinjikji 2015 as a source:


This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog.