Correlation between high-intensity zone on MRI and discography in patients with low back pain

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The aim of this study was to analyze the correlation between high-intensity zone (HIZ) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of a lumbar disc and positive pain response assessed by discography for the diagnosis and treatment of discogenic low back pain (LBP). Thirty-seven patients aged 21 to 59 years with chronic LBP but without any neurological symptoms or lumbar disc herniation who underwent MRI and subsequent discography were included in this study. During discography, concordant pain was regarded as positive, whereas discordant pain and no pain were regarded as negative. X-ray and computed tomography (CT) after discography with positive pain response were analyzed to correlate with HIZ on MRI. A total of 98 discs underwent discography in 37 patients; 21 discs presented positive pain response, including 10 with HIZ (47.6%). Seventy-seven discs presented negative pain response, including 29 with HIZ (37.6%). The high grade of annular disruption group shows a high proportion of HIZ on MRI. A positive correlation between HIZ and degree of annular disruption was observed. However, no correlation between HIZ and positive pain response was established on discography. The findings confirm that the presence of HIZ on MRI is only a suggestive and screening iconography indication for the diagnosis of discogenic LBP and cannot replace the gold standard of the discography. MRI should be closely integrated with those of discography, and thus, they play a crucial role in selecting operative segments of multilevel lumbar degenerative disk disease.

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