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This article is the final published version in the journal Neurospine, Volume 17, Issue 1, 2020, Pages 36-41.

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Copyright Koerner


OBJECTIVE: To determine if there is correlation between intradiscal levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and early outcome measures in patients undergoing lumbar fusion for painful disc degeneration.

METHODS: Intervertebral disc tissue was separated into annulus fibrosus/nucleus pulposus and cultured separately in vitro in serum-free medium (Opti-MEM). Conditioned media was collected after 48 hours. The concentration of IL-6 was quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Pearson correlation coefficients quantified relationships between IL-6 levels and pre- and postoperative visual analogue scale (VAS) back pain and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), as well as change in VAS/ODI.

RESULTS: Sixteen discs were harvested from 9 patients undergoing anterior lumbar interbody fusion (mean age, 47.4 years; range, 21-70 years). Mean preoperative and 6-month postoperative VAS were 8.1 and 3.7, respectively. Mean preoperative and postoperative ODI were 56.2 and 25.6, respectively. There were significant positive correlations between IL-6 expression and postoperative VAS (ρ = 0.38, p = 0.048) and ODI (ρ = 0.44, p = 0.02). No significant correlations were found between intradiscal IL-6 expression and preoperative VAS (ρ = -0.12, p = 0.54). Trends were seen associating IL-6 expression and change in VAS/ODI (ρ = -0.35 p = 0.067; ρ = -0.34, p = 0.08, respectively). A trend associated IL-6 and preoperative ODI (ρ = 0.36, p = 0.063).

CONCLUSION: The direct association between IL-6 expression and VAS/ODI suggests patients with elevated intradiscal cytokine expression may have worse early outcomes than those with lower expression of IL-6 after surgery for symptomatic disc degeneration.

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