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I can't see my DDD

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
Hi, I'm new to this messageboard and thought you'd might help.

I'm a 26-year old male and was recently told by my back surgeon that I had Disc Degeneration on my L4-L5 and L5-S1 discs. He said it was "significant grade III degradation"

As concerned as I am about all this, I've looked at the MRIs and I can't quite see how this is classified as grade III, which as far as I know, is rather advanced degeneration with the space between the vertebrae greatly reduced.

I've tried to compare my MRI (I realise that one image is probably not enough and I may not have picked the most relevant) with some on the internet and all I notice is that ALL my lumbar discs are slightly darker than what is considered a healthy spine. Then again I'm not sure if the images were taken in the same conditions, with the same methods etc.

I do see the "bulge" on the two discs but in terms of inter-vertebrae space, I don't really see how these two discs are more affected than the others.


If you guys could give me your opinion, I'd really appreciate it. If you reckon more info/images is necessary, then I'll try to answer.


  • I suggest taking the MRIs to your next doctor visit and having them explained to you so you won't have to guess. (That's what I'm going to do myself.)

    I'm sorry you have to face this at such a young age!
  • http://img59.imageshack.us/my.php?image=0a169a50rm0.png

    I've uploaded another image, in the hope that it might be more telling...
  • I just realised my second image was of the same MRI. I was just looking for a second opinion as all specialists seem to have different approaches to these things: for example my back surgeon told me to continue with sports (rowing of all things) whereas I'm sure my GP would tell me to stop.

    I see the fact that the discs are not totally white, that there's some bulging but from what I've read grade III degradation is quite advanced degradation.
  • If you're not sure whose opinion to trust on what activities you can continue, I'd consider seeing a physiotherapist and getting THEIR advice. They can check out your MRI report and your mechanical limitations and give you a good idea of what will help or hurt your body.

  • but the more white in the disk on the MRI the better. I've had many MRI's, CT's, bone scans, etc. I've studied them for hours hoping to find a source of my pain. :? Unfortunately most reputable sources here will tell you what looks really bad on an MRI may cause no pain - and someone (like me) with terrible constant pain will show normal on films. That's why there are so many failed back surgeries. It's a crap-shoot at best.

    With that said... your MRI doesn't look BAD to me. And I agree with LillyDePlume, 26 is awefully young to have these issues. I read more & more of people in their late teens, early 20s that have to go through this pain & make these decisions.

    Good luck!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,837
    For starters, rely on only the review of medical professionals when it comes to reading MRIs. The MRI images are way too complicated for an untrained person to make any true and accurate diagnosis. Most MRI's will have up to 70 different 'slices' of images that need to be reviewed.
    I've had more MRI's than I really like to think about and I've picked up medical reference guides to try to better understand the images. Most of the time, I will not see anything or see more than what is there.

    Everyone should have their MRI reports reviewed by two different doctors. All MRI's should have initially been reviewed by the Radiologist who would document their findings for doctors to review. While MRI's provide details to identify what your problem(s) may be, many time additional diagnostic tests are used.

    But I strongly disagree that any failed back surgery is due to improper reading of MRI. Good Neurosurgeons during a surgical procedure would know much more as to what is actually the problem, then just depending on what a MRI says.

    Age is another area that people dont always seem to understand. Most of the time, you would think that disc related problems happen later on in life, spinal problems can happen at much younger years. I started with disc problems when I was 16 and it wasnt until I was 27 that I had my first of 7 spinal surgeries. There are so many different factors, genetic backgrounds, physical situations, trauma, etc that all play a role in what can happen to your spine

    The most important thing that should come out of this is
    - Make sure you have more than one doctor review your MRI
    - Make sure that the doctor explains the MRI report to you so that you completely understand your situation
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks for all the input. You must be right that MRIs are too complicated to understand for people who aren't medical professionals. As for opinions from 2 doctors, that isn't going to happen. This may be due to the fact that I went to a clinic here in London to get my MRIs done but the MRIs which were performed at the same clinic went straight to the orthpedic surgeon.

    Although I'd have to agree that he must know what he's talking about it, I was wondering if he was using the same grading system that I've seen elsewhere. Grade III is apparently quite advanced degeneration.

    I will get a second opinion but it's only going to be from my physio. He doesn't seem particularly concerned that I have disc degeneration (then again he hasn't seen the images yet) and says that because I'm fairly active through rowing, that if I have strong enough muscles, the discs will be able to manage any strain.

    Then I'm sure my GP would tell me I should stop any strenuous exercise altogether if I don't want to make things worse... I've been suffering from mild scoliosis (about 15 degrees between the L1 and L5) since I was about 17 and did a lot of physio as my posture was pretty bad but even the physio hasn't prevented my back from degenerating.

    I'm not really sure what to think.
  • Man, you guys are so smart! I'm glad I found this forum :) !
  • I was diagnosed with DDD at 18 and by the time I was 25 had my first surgery. Looking at your MRI doesn't scream DDD level III...but I am no Doc.

    Don't let it get ya down...keep your head up and just know we here at Spine-Health are here for you. God Bless!!
  • Have to agree with others.DDD doesn't look like last stage.But then,what do we know?You have 3 discs bulging into the thecal sac.Maybe they are the pain source...See if you can get a couple of more doc's to see the MRI.BTW,did a Radiologist read the MRI?Good luck to you!

  • well guys my nerve root was severely compressed between 2 herniations, the 2 disc were black, I mean black, and the nerve root curled almost like a nickle.

    that was too painful.
  • Oh Lord, that must have hurt!!
  • I'm happy I found this form too. I find many folks out their with the same problems I have. I'm a 30yr female and I first found out I had DDD at the age 13 when I was a school. I was a very happy little girl who loved to run jump around all the time. The doctors told me that when I turn 30 I will be wheeled-bound and can't walk. Well I'm 30 and still walking on my own two feet but in very horrible pain though. My DDD is Severe don't know the grade level they didn't tell me. I have scoliois too which makes it more painful.

    You can have a happy life if you want too just choose to have one its a choice! Praise GOD I have't had to have surgery on my back.

  • Hey I have had Cervical DDD since I was a baby but I just got dignosed with it at age 18. It's been the most scarest thing in my life ever. They are now saying I have it in my Thoraic and possibly in my lumbar they are not sure yet becuase they haven't done a full scan of my back. So I am not sure what is going on. No doctor will ever touch me. When I graduate at end of this year from high school I won't have insurance. So I need to get something done because I can't live with these migraines and neck pains and shoulder pains. Gosh it sucks. Well, I hope you find some help.
    Love Always,
  • Hi Keyko,

    Maybe you can apply for Medicaid if you have low income and can't work, or apply for Social Security. It takes a long time; get a lawyer; the sooner you start the process, the better, because they will backpay from the disability date. They do however have a strict guidelines for back conditons to consider it severe enougn to be a disability. You're young, and you may have a good case, depending on medical evidence.
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