The vacuum phenomena involving the intervertebral discs is a result of accumulation of gas (principally nitrogen) within the crevices of the intervertebral discs or adjacent vertebrae.
It is a common occurrence which can be observed in 1-3% of spinal radiographs and may even reach a prevalence of 20% in elderly individuals 5.
This commonly occurs in association with intervertebral disc degenerative disease.
Having said this, the presence of gas does not categorically imply merely degenerative disc disease, as other processes can lead to discs containing gas. Examples of other conditions with gas includes:
- vertebral osteomyelitis
- Schmorl node formation
- spondylosis deformans
- all causes of vertebral body collapse e.g. osteonecrosis (Kümmell disease) 2
History and etymology
It was first described by Magnusson in 1937 5.
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- 2. Lafforgue PF, Chagnaud CJ, Daver LM et-al. Intervertebral disk vacuum phenomenon secondary to vertebral collapse: prevalence and significance. Radiology. 1994;193 (3): 853-8. Radiology (abstract) - Pubmed citation
- 3. Feng SW, Chang MC, Wu HT et-al. Are intravertebral vacuum phenomena benign lesions?. Eur Spine J. 2011;20 (8): 1341-8. Eur Spine J (full text) - doi:10.1007/s00586-011-1789-3 - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
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