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Lower Spine News

Using Disc Space Height to Predict Outcome of Spinal Fusion

Patients with back pain from a degenerative disc may be helped with surgery. The best treatment depends on the patient's symptoms and findings during the doctor's exam. In this study results of X-ray to measure the disc space are used to predict outcomes.

Patients were divided into four groups based on disc space height (DSH) measured on X-ray. Disc height ranged from less than five millimeters (collapsed) to more than 15 mm (tall disc space).

All patients had a single-level anterior spinal fusion. The procedure was called an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF). Everyone was followed for up to 24 months. Results were measured based on pain levels, physical function, and disability.

Everyone in all four groups got better. The patients with the most collapsed disc space had the most improvement. They also had the earliest results with more pain relief and better function as early as three months after the surgery.

The authors conclude measuring disc height before ALIF may help surgeons find patients who can be helped the most by this surgery.


Thomas C. Schuler, MD, et al. The Correlation Between Preoperative Disc Space Height and Clinical Outcomes After Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion. In Journal of Spinal Disorders. October 2005. Vol. 18. No. 5. Pp. 396-401.

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