The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of diminished arterial blood flow in painful disc degeneration.
Diffusion in intervertebral discs of 37 asymptomatic adults measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and their lumbar arterial blood supply measured by magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) correlated significantly.
End plate degeneration in intervertebral discs evaluated with MRI was analysed with reference to disc distress evaluated with computed tomography (CT) discography, and a significant correlation between end plate degeneration and disc degeneration was found among 36 low back pain patients. Intradiscal pain caused by discography did not correlate with end plate degeneration.
There were significantly more atheromatous plaques in the abdominal aorta among 29 chronic low back pain patients compared to 52 asymptomatic people, especially in the age group under 50 years.
Occlusion of lumbar arteries in MRA correlated significantly with disc degeneration in MRI among 113 sciatica patients. Furthermore, the disc degeneration and the occlusion of lumbar arteries were severe among 41 sciatica patients and 41 asymptomatic people.
During a three-year follow-up, the occlusion of lumbar arteries in MRA correlated significantly with physical and mental ability measured by a self-efficacy questionnaire at every assessment point (1,2,3 years). Furthermore, the intensity of back pain at 1 year and leg pain at 2 years correlated with the occlusion of lumbar arteries. Re-stenosis of lumbar arteries within 3 years correlated significantly with medical consultations for low back pain, prolonged low back pain and prolonged sciatica during one year before the baseline assessment.