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Spine and Back Health

Vacuum Disc Phenomenon

07/06/2010

Question:

What does "A vacuum disc phenomenon is present at L2-3" mean? Thanks

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. As a spinal disc degenerates (wears out), sometimes small gas bubbles form within the deteriorating cartilage. As these gas bubbles merge together, small pockets of this gas (basically nitrogen, similar to air) merge together. If you get enough of this, the little pocket of gas shows up on imaging studies, like x-rays or CT scans. It is simply one possible sign of a fairly degenerated disc, but doesn't have any more profound significance than that.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University