Disc desiccation

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 24 Apr 2019

Disc desiccation (also known as disc dehydration) is an extremely common degenerative change of intervertebral discs. The incidence climbs with age, and to a large degree a gradual dehydration is a 'normal' part of disc aging. It results from replacement of the hydrophilic glycosaminoglycans within the nucleus pulposus with fibrocartilage. 

Although it is commonly thought that the resultant loss of disc height is due to reduction in nucleus pulposus volume, this has been shown not to be the case. Rather disc height loss is a result of annular bulging and vertebral endplate bowing. 

On imaging, the disc loses its high T2 signal, and the horizontal midline low signal cleft is no longer apparent.

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: with annular fissure
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