Incomplete Recovery of Lumbar Discs Two Years After Bed Rest

MRI scans show persistent increases in disc volume, disc height, intervertebral length

FRIDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Recovery of the lumbar intervertebral discs following a 60-day period of bed rest is a lengthy process, with recovery incomplete at two years, according to a study published in the June 15 issue of Spine.

Daniel L. Belavý, B.Phty., Ph.D., from the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and colleagues conducted a prospective longitudinal study to evaluate the recovery of the lumbar intervertebral discs after bed rest. As part of the second Berlin BedRest Study, 24 male participants completed 60 days of head down tilt bed rest. Of these, 22 underwent magnetic resonance imaging at 180 days and 21 at two years after bed rest.

The researchers found that increases in disc volume and height and intervertebral length persisted at 180 days (P ≤ 0.0004) and 720 days (P ≤ 0.024) after bed rest, compared with prior to bed rest. At 180 days the disc signal intensity remained increased (P = 0.034), but at two years it was decreased compared with baseline (P = 0.018).

"The current study shows that the recovery of the morphology of the lumbar intervertebral discs after prolonged bed rest is incomplete after two years," the authors write. "Further work is required to examine whether these persistent effects could be associated with increased disc injury risk."

The second Berlin BedRest Study was partially funded by the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

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