Structural changes in the multifidus muscle were analyzed in 41 patients operated on for herniated intervertebral disc. Twelve cadavers served as controls. The two main findings follow: 1) Both in the patients and in the controls the Type 2 muscle fibers were markedly and selectively smaller than the Type 1 fibers, which were of normal size for striated muscles, and 2) the internal structure of Type 1 fibers showed so-called core-targetoid and/or moth-eaten change. Group atrophy or fiber-type grouping (indicators of denervation and reinnervation) were observed only in a few patients. The selective small size of the Type 2 fibers may indicate atrophy due to relative inactivity of the multifidus muscle both in the patients and in the controls, ie, it does not need to be related to the herniated disc. Definite proof for denervation of the multifidus muscle was not observed, but neither the possibility be excluded. The cause of the core-targetoid and/or moth-eaten changes cannot yet be determined with certainty, because these changes are not specific for any single entity but may be due, for example, to denervation, ischemia, or altered use of the muscles because of pain. In any case, because the changes were significantly more common in the patients than in the controls, they signal for a pathologic condition, the character of which remains to be elucidated.
*From the Department of Pathology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
†From the Sports Medical Research Unit, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
‡From the Turku City Hospital, Turku, Finland
§From the Rehabilitation Research Center of the Social Insurance Institution, Turku, Finland
¶From the Department of Pathology I, Sahlgren Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden
∥From the Department of Surgery, Turku University Central Hospital, Turku, Finland
**From the Department of Surgery, Tampere University Central Hospital, Tampere, Finland.