Modic changes in the lumbar spine and their association with body composition, fat distribution and intervertebral disc height-A 3.0 T-MRI study

Andrew J. Teichtahl, Donna M. Urquhart, Yuanyuan Wang, Anita E. Wluka, Richard O'Sullivan, Graeme Jones, Flavia M. Cicuttini

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Vertebral endplate (Modic) abnormalities are important structural lesions in the spine, but their association with body composition and fat distribution have not been examined. Moreover, no study has examined whether Modic change are related to other structural features of low back pain, such as reduced intervertebral disc height. Methods: Seventy-two community-based individuals not selected for low back pain had lumbar vertebral Modic change and intervertebral disc height assessed from MRI. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry measured body composition and fat distribution. Results: The predominance of Modic change was type 2. Modic change was associated with an increased fat mass index (OR 1.20, 95 % CI 1.01 to 1.43), and tended to be associated with a reduced fat-free mass index (OR 0.62, 95 % CI 0.37 to 1.03, p = 0.07). While an increased percentage of gynoid fat was associated with a reduced risk (OR 0.62, 95 % CI 0.43 to 0.89), an increased percentage of android fat was associated with an increased risk of Modic change (OR 2.11, 95 % CI 1.18 to 3.76). Modic change was also associated with reduced intervertebral disc height at L2/3, L4/5 and L5/S1 (OR range 1.4 to 1.8; all p ≤ 0.03). Conclusion: Modic type 2 change is associated with reduced intervertebral disc height and an increased fat mass index. Whereas gynoid fat distribution protected against Modic type 2 change, an android pattern increased the risk of this lesion. Modic type 2 change, which histologically represent fat replacement, might have a metabolic component to its aetiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number92
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2016


  • Adiposity
  • Android
  • Body composition
  • Fat free mass
  • Fat mass
  • Gynoid
  • Height
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Lumbar spine
  • Modic
  • MRI

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