Degenerative Disc Disease: What's in a Name?

Michele C. Battié, PhD; Anand B. Joshi, MPH, MD; Laura E. Gibbons, PhD


Spine. 2019;44(21):1523-1529. 

In This Article

Materials and Methods

Sample. We conducted a systematic search of publications using the term degenerative disc disease in the health sciences literature over the decade from January 1, 2007, through December 31, 2016. We were particularly interested in how the term was defined when it was the object of study or central to the research being reported, so we limited the primary sample from which definitions of degenerative disc disease were extracted to publications in which the term appeared in the title. Specifically, "degenerative dis* diseas*" was searched as a title word and limited to 2007–2016 in Ovid MEDLINE (R), Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus. Duplicates were eliminated, as were books and book chapters.

Methods. Two investigators independently reviewed all publications in the primary sample and extracted, coded, and entered the data for each directly into an electronic database created for the review. The information extracted for each publication included year of publication, discipline or department of corresponding or lead author, country of origin, publication type (e.g., full journal article, proceedings), study type (e.g., cohort study, randomized clinical trial), the context in which degenerative disc disease was being studied (e.g., surgery, basic science), and the spinal region being studied (e.g., cervical, lumbar). Finally, the definition of degenerative disc disease used in the publication was noted and placed in one of eight broad categories or "other" (Table 1).

After data were extracted, coded, and entered into the electronic database, discrepancies were identified and errors were corrected. In cases where discrepancies in definition codes occurred, the publication and definition were re-evaluated and consensus was reached. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the findings of the review.

Finally, Scopus was queried to provide a broad indicator of trends from 2007–2016 for increasing or decreasing use of the term, degenerative disc disease, relative to spine-related publications, in general. A function in Scopus provides a frequency count of all publications for each year in which a term appears in the publication title, keywords, or abstract. Changes in the frequency of use of the term, degenerative disc disease, were compared with yearly frequency counts for the broader terms, lumbar spine, and cervical spine, over the 10-year timeframe.