Sagittal and Superior Central Cervical Disc Injuries
This exhibit depicts the sagittal and superior anatomy of the cervical spine, comparing a normal intervertebral disc, disc bulge, disc herniation, and degenerative disc disease. Intervertebral discs are situated between each vertebral body of the spinal column. They serve as cushions to absorb shock and give the spine flexibility. A normal intervertebral disc consists of a tough outer annulus and a soft inner nucleus. If the annulus is weakened, the nucleus can begin to push through the inner annular fibers, causing the disc to bulge into the spinal canal and neural foramina. Further damage can cause the nucleus to herniate completely through the annulus, impinging the spinal cord and nerve roots. Degenerative disc disease is the process of intervertebral disc degradation as a result of age or injury. Over time, the disc dehydrates causing the annulus to crack or tear. The soft inner nucleus stiffens and reduces shock absorption. These conditions can be asymptomatic, or lead to a variety of symptoms including radicular pain, numbness, osteoarthritis, and paralysis.