Modic changes: a systematic review of the literature

Yue-Hui Zhang, Chang-Qing Zhao, Lei-Sheng Jiang, Xiao-Dong Chen, Li-Yang Dai
European Spine Journal 2008, 17 (10): 1289-99
Modic changes (MC) are a common phenomenon on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in spinal degenerative diseases and strongly linked with low back pain (LBP). Histology, radiology, potential mechanisms, natural history and clinical studies of MC has formed the foundation on which our understanding of spinal degenerative diseases is built. The objective of this study was to provide a review of recent important advances in the study of MC and their clinical significance. This review article summarizes these studies, by delineating the possible mechanisms, and raising doubts and new questions. The related aspects such as discography and differential diagnosis with spinal infection and tumor on MRI are also discussed. Although most of researchers believe that MC are common findings in patients with spinal degenerative diseases and have an association with discogenic LBP, different results between studies may be produced from the differences in study design, inclusion criteria, and sample size. How the present knowledge of MC affects the management of spinal degenerative diseases remains unclear. Further studies of MC will explore therapeutic possibilities for future treatments of spinal degenerative diseases.

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