Modic changes in the cervical spine

Prospective 10-year follow-up study in asymptomatic subjects

M. Matsumoto, E. Okada, D. Ichihara, K. Chiba, Y. Toyama, H. Fujiwara, S. Momoshima, Y. Nishiwaki, T. Takahata


We conducted a prospective follow-up MRI study of originally asymptomatic healthy subjects to clarify the development of Modic changes in the cervical spine over a ten-year period and to identify related factors. Previously, 497 asymptomatic healthy volunteers with no history of cervical trauma or surgery underwent MRI. Of these, 223 underwent a second MRI at a mean follow-up of 11.6 years (10 to 12.7). These 223 subjects comprised 133 men and 100 women with a mean age at second MRI of 50.5 years (23 to 83). Modic changes were classified as not present and types 1 to 3. Changes in Modic types over time and relationships between Modic changes and progression of degeneration of the disc or clinical symptoms were evaluated. A total of 31 subjects (13.9%) showed Modic changes at follow-up: type 1 in nine, type 2 in 18, type 3 in two, and types 1 and 2 in two. Modic changes at follow-up were significantly associated with numbness or pain in the arm, but not with neck pain or shoulder stiffness. Age (≥ 40 years), gender (male), and pre-existing disc degeneration were significantly associated with newly developed Modic changes.

In the cervical spine over a ten-year period, type 2 Modic changes developed most frequently. Newly developed Modic changes were significantly associated with age, gender, and pre-existing disc degeneration.


  • This study was supported by a grant from the General Insurance Association of Japan. The authors would like to thank Mr T. Watanabe of the Department of Central Radiotechnology, Keio University Hospital, for his assistance.

    No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

  • Received October 18, 2011.
  • Accepted January 23, 2012.
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