Disc Degeneration More Prevalent in Obese Adolescents

Increased body mass index is significantly linked with severity of juvenile lumbar disease

FRIDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight and obese adolescents without spinal deformities have increased prevalence and severity of juvenile disc degeneration compared with their normal-weight peers, according to a study published in the April 6 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Dino Samartzis, D.Sc., from the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues evaluated the prevalence, determinants, and clinical relevance of juvenile disc degeneration of the lumbar spine in 83 adolescents (aged 13 to 20 years) without spinal deformities. The presence and extent of disc degeneration was determined by sagittal T2-weighted magnetic resonance images (MRI). Standardized questionnaires were used to collect demographics and clinical profiles.

The investigators found that 29 (35 percent) of the adolescents had juvenile disc degeneration. The prevalence of disc bulging, high-intensity zones on MRI, and greater weight and height was significantly increased in these individuals. Body mass index in the overweight or obese range was significantly correlated with the presence and severity of disc degeneration, compared with underweight or normal-weight individuals. Adolescents with disc degeneration had increased prevalence and intensity of low back pain and/or sciatica, and reduced social and physical functioning.

"This study has public health implications regarding overweight and obesity and the development of lumbar disc disease," the authors write.

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