METHODS In 16 patients undergoing lumbar spinal surgery for degenerative conditions, multifidus biopsies were acquired at two distinct locations: 1) the most superficial portion of muscle adjacent to the spinous process and 2) approximately 1 cm lateral to the spinous process and deeper at the spinolaminar border of the affected vertebral level. Structural features related to muscle function were histologically compared between these superficial and deep regions, including tissue composition, fat fraction, fiber cross sectional area, fiber type, regeneration, degeneration, vascularity and inflammation.
RESULTS No significant differences in fat signal fraction, muscle area, fiber cross sectional area, muscle regeneration, muscle degeneration, or vascularization were found between the superficial and deep regions of the multifidus. Total collagen content between the two regions was the same. However, the superficial region of the multifidus was found to have less loose and more dense collagen than the deep region.
CONCLUSIONS The results of our study did not support that the deep region of the multifidus is more degenerated in patients with lumbar spine pathology, as gross degenerative changes in muscle microstructure and macrostructure were the same in the superficial and deep regions of the multifidus. In these patients, the multifidus is not protected in order to maintain mobility and structural stability of the spine.