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Spine and Back Health

Lower back pain

04/29/2008

Question:

What does "minimal diffuse bulge of disc which extends into the formaina bilaterally" mean? Also, what does "minimal dorsal ligamentous hypertrophy" mean? Thank you.

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question.

"Diffuse bulge of the disc" means that the disc is wearing out, and as it does, it tends to bulge outward due to the weight of the body pushing down on it. The foramen (plural, foramina) is the opening on the side of the spinal canal where each individual nerve root exits the spine and heads down toward the leg (or arm, if it's in the neck).

Bilaterally means both left and right.

"Dorsal ligamentous hypertrophy" means the ligament (a band of fibers that joins the two bones together) in the back of the spine (dorsal = posterior = the back side, not the front side) is thicker than normal.

"Hypertrophy" is the opposite of "atrophy" and you could say that Arnold Schwarzenegger has "hypertrophied" muscles. Ligaments get bigger (hypertrophy) when subjected to high strain or loading force over long periods of time.

What does all this mean, though? I don't know. You need to discuss that with your doctor. Usually when radiologists use terms like "minimal" it means it's nothing to get worked up about. Most adults over the age of 25 don't have "normal" MRIs - almost everybody has some mild degenerative changes in their spines. I hope this information helps. Good luck.

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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