The prevalence and characteristics of thoracic magnetic resonance imaging findings in men

Riikka Niemeläinen, Michele C. Battié, Kevin Gill, Tapio Videman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of thoracic magnetic resonance image (MRI) findings. OBJECTIVE: To examine the prevalence of different thoracic MRI findings for T6-T12 and their associations with age and one another by level. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: There is a dearth of descriptive epidemiology of thoracic MRI findings in the general population. METHODS: Thoracic MRIs of 524 men were assessed qualitatively and quantitatively for a variety of findings, including disc bulging, height and signal, vertebral deformities, endplate irregularities, osteophytes, and hemangiomas. Descriptive statistics, correlation coefficients and STATA's survey analysis were used. RESULTS: In the lower thoracic spine, 5.4% to 9.5% of the discs, depending on level, were qualitatively assessed as moderately to severely narrowed. Anterior bulging was more common than posterior, which was relatively rare and mild when present. Signal was lower in the midthoracic than lower discs. At least 1 moderate or severe vertebral deformity was found in 6.1% of the subjects, suggesting fracture, and hemangiomas were identified in 2.3% of subjects. Disc signal correlated most highly with age (r = 0.31-0.42). Qualitatively assessed disc height narrowing (r = 0.29-0.46) and quantitative disc height (r = 0.11-0.29) were associated with disc signal. Upper and lower endplate irregularities were associated with one another (r = 0.17-0.32), as were bulging and osteophytes, anteriorly (r = 0.35-0.61) and posteriorly (r = 0.26-0.45). CONCLUSION: Degenerative MRI findings beyond a mild grade were not commonly observed in the thoracic spine among 35-70-year-old men. Posterior bulges, in particular, were rare. The highest correlation with age existed for disc signal. Different MRI findings were associated with one another, but the magnitude of association varied by level. The effects of individual judgments and disc level on prevalence rates were apparent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2552-2559
Number of pages8
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 1 2008


  • Age
  • Disc degeneration
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Osteophytes
  • Thoracic spine
  • Vertebral deformities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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