Vacuum Disc Phenomenon

Vacuum disc phenomenon refers to accumulation of gas within the inter-vertebral disc area, but it typically does not lead to compression of nerves. However, some uncommon forms of vacuum disc phenomenon affecting the spinal canal can result in posterior displacement of gas inside the epidural area.

Vacuum disc phenomenon is a condition characterized by degeneration of the spinal/vertebral disc over some time, which occurs due to erosion of the cartilage and buildup of gas bubbles in the space occurring between and within the disc. The gas is just air, primarily nitrogen, and can be detected via X-rays. The presence of vacuum disc phenomenon is an indication that degeneration or wearing out of the vertebral disc may occur or is occurring. The condition by itself does not result in any abnormal symptoms. However, if the disc gets sufficiently worn out, then it can result in pain.

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Vacuum disc phenomenon may cause the formation of a symptomatic epidural gas-filled cyst, thereby leading to lumbosacral radiculopathy. Buildup of gas in the lumbar epidural space can also compress the nerve root and the dural sac.

Vacuum disc phenomenon usually occurs with an underlying case of intervertebral disc degenerative disease, but its occurrence is not a definitive sign of the presence of any kind of degenerative disease of the vertebra. Collection of gas can also occur along with varied other process; such as spondylosis deformans,Schmorl node formation, vertebral osteomyelitis, and vertebral collapse with osteonecrosis; which affect the disc and the nearby vertebral parts.

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