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MRI scan of the back showing prolapsed disc.

MRI scan of the back showing prolapsed disc.

M330/0658

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Credit

DR P. MARAZZI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR P. MARAZZI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Disc prolapse. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of a sagittal slice through the lower spine of a 37-year-old woman showing a prolapsed disc. A prolapsed or "slipped" disc is a common spine disorder caused by disc degeneration with age or a sudden injury. Here, 4 healthy discs (oval) between the 5 lumbar vertebrae (grey, squares) can be seen. Below them, at bottom centre, the disc between the 5th lumbar vertebra and the first fused vertebra of the sacrum has prolapsed (black, flattened). Its pulpy interior is protruding into the spinal cord (thin, white). This will cause pain and may be disabling. Treatment is usually bed rest though surgery is sometimes needed.

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