Objective The aim of this study was to investigate the clinicopathologic features of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) with endplate degeneration and the association between cartilaginous fragments and inflammatory response to the herniated disc. Summary of background data LDH often involves hyaline cartilage fragments pulled from the vertebral endplates. Modic changes are closely associated with LDH that contains hyaline cartilage, and cartilaginous endplates seem to affect resorption of the herniated disc. Methods A total of 78 patients who underwent microscopic discectomy between 9 and 16 weeks after an occurrence of LDH were reviewed. Modic changes, disc degeneration, high-intensity zone, and vertebral corner defect were evaluated using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Histopathological observations of cartilaginous endplates and inflamed granulation tissue in the herniated disc were made. In cases with inflamed granulation tissue, neovascularization and macrophage infiltration were also evaluated using immunohistochemical analysis. Results Modic changes were observed in approximately one-third of the patients (26 cases: type 1, 7; type 2, 17; and type 3, 2). Cartilaginous endplates were observed in 32 cases (41%) and in the majority of cases with Modic changes compared with cases without Modic changes (65%, p = 0.001). Although inflamed granulation tissue was observed in 60 cases (77%), no significant differences were detected in patient age and the composition of the herniated material. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that fewer CD34-positive capillaries and CD68-positive cells were found in cases with cartilaginous fragments compared with those without cartilaginous fragments (p < 0.001). In addition, a higher immunoreactivity to CD34 and CD68 was found in herniated discs <25% of whose area was occupied by cartilaginous endplates compared with discs whose area was occupied at 25% or more (p < 0.001). Conclusion There is an association between LDH with endplate degeneration and cartilaginous herniation, with Modic type 2 predominating. Furthermore, neovascularization and macrophage infiltration, especially if the amount of cartilage is high, are likely to be less frequent in cartilaginous herniation, leading to failure in the spontaneous remission of clinical symptoms.
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