Cross-sectional observational study.
The aim was to compare the prevalence and severity of radiographic lumbar spine degeneration between elderly Hong Kong Chinese and elderly Italian Caucasian women.
Summary of Background Data.
Rates of symptomatic low back pain and osteoporotic vertebral fracture have been shown to be lower in Asian and Chinese populations compared with Caucasians, but ethnic differences in spinal degeneration are less established.
Lumbar spine lateral radiographs of 566 age-matched (mean: 73.6 yr; range: 65–87 yr) female subjects from two population-based epidemiological studies from Hong Kong (n=283) and Rome, Italy (n=283) were reviewed. Grading of degeneration categories: disk height loss (none, <30%, 30%–60%, >60%), osteophyte formation (not present, minimal, small, large), endplate sclerosis (none, mild, moderate, severe), and antero/retrolisthesis (none, <25%, 25%–50%, >50%) was performed for vertebral levels from L1/2 to L5/S1 (five levels). Each category was assigned a score (0, 1, 2, 3) at individual vertebral level according to severity. The total degeneration score was obtained by adding scores for all categories across the vertebral levels.
Italian subjects [total score (mean±SD): 7.0±5.5] had a higher severity of overall degenerative changes compared with Hong Kong subjects (5.7±4.4), P<0.01. Italian subjects had higher scores for individual findings of disk height loss (Italian, 3.6±2.8 vs. Hong Kong 2.5±2.1, P<0.01); antero/retrolisthesis (Italian 0.3±0.7 vs. Hong Kong 0.2±0.4, P=0.01); and endplate sclerosis (Italian 1.0±1.2 vs. Hong Kong 0.6±1.0, P<0.01). At each individual level from L1/2 to L5/S1, total degeneration scores were higher in Italian than Hong Kong subjects (P<0.01–0.04).
Degenerative changes in the lumbar spine are less prevalent and less severe in elderly Hong Kong Chinese women than in age-matched Italian Caucasian women. The observed differences may reflect a foundational background influence of genetic predisposition that requires further studies.