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Many investigators have reported that persistent low back pain may occur after posterior surgical intervention, and studies have investigated the histologic and histochemical changes in back muscle after posterior lumbar spine surgery. The purpose of the current study is to compare the pre- and postoperative cross-sectional area of the back musculature among 5 surgical groups including anterior lumbar interbody fusion, which has no direct invasion of the back musculature, using magnetic resonance imaging, and to correlate the clinical results with the degree of atrophy. The cross-sectional area of the back musculature was measured before and after surgery in T2-weighted axial magnetic resonance images using a computer-linked digitizer. The degree of atrophy (atrophy ratio) was calculated as a ratio of the postoperative cross-sectional area to the preoperative cross-sectional area. Clinical results were evaluated using the Japanese Orthopaedic Association's scores for the management of low back pain. Atrophy of the back musculature was confirmed in each group. However, no significant difference was seen in the atrophy ratio between the groups. Back musculature atrophy occurred even in anterior lumbar interbody fusion, which does not involve any direct surgery of the back muscle. A positive correlation was noted between the atrophy ratio and operation time only in posterior surgery, especially in nonfusion surgery. In conclusion, the current study suggests that a shorter operation time may minimize back muscle injury, and shows that factors inducing back musculature atrophy include not only direct invasion of the back muscle via a posterior approach, but also postoperative external fixation.