Lumbar multifidus muscle degenerates in individuals with chronic degenerative lumbar spine pathology

Shahidi B, Hubbard JC, Gibbons MC, Ruoss S, Zlomislic V, Allen RT, Garfin SR, Ward SR.
J Orthop Res, 2017 35(12):2700-2706. Epub 2017 May 23.


Histological and cell-level changes in the lumbar musculature in individuals with chronic lumbar spine degenerative conditions are not well characterized. Although prior literature supports evidence of changes in fiber type and size, little information exists describing the tissue quality and biology of pathological features of muscle in this population. The purpose of this study was to quantify multifidus tissue composition and structure, inflammation, vascularity, and degeneration in individuals with chronic degenerative lumbar spine pathology. Human multifidus biopsies were acquired from 22 consecutive patients undergoing surgery for chronic degenerative lumbar spine pathology. Relative fractions of muscle, adipose, and extracellular matrix were quantified along with muscle fiber type and cross-sectional area (CSA) and markers of inflammation, vascularity, satellite cell density, and muscle degeneration. On average, multifidus biopsies contained 48.5% muscle, 11.7% adipose tissue, and 26.1% collagen tissue. Elevated inflammatory cell counts (48.5 ± 30.0 macrophages/mm² ) and decreased vascularity (275.6 ± 69.4 vessels/mm² ) were also observed compared to normative values. Satellite cell densities were on average 13 ± 9 cells per every 100 muscle fibers. Large fiber CSA (3,996.0 ± 1,909.2 µm² ) and a predominance of type I fibers (61.8 ± 18.0%) were observed in addition to evidence of pathological degeneration-regeneration cycling (18.8 ± 9.4% centrally nucleated fibers, and 55.2 ± 24.2% of muscle regions containing degeneration). High levels of muscle degeneration, inflammation, and decreased vascularity were commonly seen in human multifidus biopsies of individuals with lumbar spine pathology in comparison to normative data. Evidence of active muscle degeneration suggests that changes in muscle tissue are more complex than simple atrophy.

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