Kazunori Shinto 1 , Akihito Minamide 1 , Hiroshi Hashizume 1 , Hiroyuki Oka 2 , Ko Matsudaira 2 , Hiroki Iwahashi 1 , Yuyu Ishimoto 1 , Masatoshi Teraguchi 1 , Ryohei Kagotani 1 , Yoshiki Asai 1 , Shigeyuki Muraki 3 , Toru Akune 4 , Sakae Tanaka 5 , Hiroshi Kawaguchi 6 , Kozo Nakamura 7 , Munehito Yoshida 1 , 8 , Noriko Yoshimura 3 , Hiroshi Yamada 1
31 December 2019
Facet effusion represents a magnetic resonance imaging finding suggesting accumulation of fluid in the facet joint, potentially predictive of lumbar spondylolisthesis and low back pain. However, its prevalence and epidemiological characteristics in the general population remain unclear, because previous studies only included patients or volunteers. The aim of the present study was to investigate the prevalence of facet effusion in the general population and to describe its potential relationship with spondylolisthesis and low back pain.
Our study enrolled 808 participants from the Wakayama Spine Study who underwent magnetic resonance imaging investigations in supine position. Facet effusion was defined as a measurable, curvilinear, high-intensity signal within the facet joint, closely matching that of cerebrospinal fluid on the axial T2 images. We used standing lateral radiographs to diagnose L4 spondylolisthesis.
We found that the prevalence of facet effusion in the lumbar spine was 34.3%, which did not differ significantly between men and women (p=0.13) and did not tend to increase with age, either in men (p=0.81) or in women (p=0.65). Additionally, we found no significant association between facet effusion and low back pain (odds ratio, 1.04–1.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.57–2.64; p=0.17–0.85), or between facet effusion and L4 spondylolisthesis (odds ratio, 1.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.80–2.86; p=0.17). In a subset of participants with L4 spondylolisthesis, we also noted that facet effusion was not significantly associated with low back pain (odds ratio, 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 0.37–4.27; p=0.70).
This is the first study of facet effusion employing a population-based cohort, and the findings are thus expected to accurately describe the relationship between facet effusion and low back pain in the general population. We are planning a follow-up survey of the Wakayama Spine Study cohort to clarify the natural history of facet effusion and its relationship with clinical symptoms.