Needle injection has been widely used in spinal therapeutic or diagnostic processes, such as discography. The use of needles has been suspected in causing mild disc degeneration which can lead to long-term back pain. However, the localised microscopic damage caused by needles has not been well studied. The local progressive damage on a microscopic level caused by needle punctures on the surface of bovine annulus fibrosus was investigated. Four different sizes of needle were used for the puncture and twenty-nine bovine intervertebral discs were studied. Polarization-resolved second harmonic generation and fluorescent microscopy were used to study the local microscopic structural changes in collagen and cell nuclei due to needle damage. Repeated 70 cyclic loadings at ±5% of axial strain were applied after the needle puncture in order to assess progressive damage caused by the needle. Puncture damage on annulus fibrosus were observed either collagen fibre bundles being pushed aside, being cut through or combination of both with part being lift or pushed in. The progressive damage was found less relevant to the needle size and more progressive damage was only observed using the larger needle. Two distinct populations of collagen, in which one was relatively more organised than the other population, were observed especially after the puncture from skewed distribution of polarization-SHG analysis. Cell shape was found rounder near the puncture site where collagen fibres were damaged.
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