A Novel Rabbit Model of Mild, Reproducible Disc Degeneration by an Anulus Needle Puncture: Correlation Between the Degree of Disc Injury and Radiological and Histological Appearances of Disc Degeneration

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Study Design.An in vivo study to radiographically and histologically assess a new method of induction of disc degeneration.Objective.To establish a reproducible rabbit model of disc degeneration by puncturing the anulus with needles of defined gauges and to compare it to the classic stab model.Summary of Background Data.New treatment approaches to disc degeneration are of great interest. Although animal models for disc degenerative disease exist, the quantitative measurement of disease progression remains difficult. A reproducible, progressive disc degeneration model, which can be induced in a reasonable time frame, is essential for development of new therapeutic interventions.Methods.The classic anular stab model and the new needle puncture model were used in the rabbit. For the needle puncture model, 3 different gauges of needle (16G, 18G, and 21G) were used to induce an injury to the disc to a depth of 5 mm. Radiographic and histologic analyses were performed; magnetic resonance images were also assessed in the needle puncture model.Results.Significant disc space narrowing was observed as early as 2 weeks after stabbing in the classic stab model; there was no further narrowing of the disc space. In the needle puncture model, all needle sizes tested induced a slower and more progressive decrease in disc height than in the classic stab model. The magnetic resonance imaging supported the results of disc height data.Conclusions.The needle puncture approach, using 16G to 21G needles, resulted in a reproducible decrease of disc height and magnetic resonance imaging grade. The ease of the procedure and transfer of the methodology will benefit researchers studying disc degeneration.

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