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Age-related degeneration of the lumbar paravertebral muscles: Systematic review and three-level meta-regressionDallaway, Alexander; Kite, Chris; Griffin, Corbyn; Duncan, Michael; Tallis, J; Renshaw, D; Hattersley, John; Coventry University, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, Aston University, University of ChesterBackground Morphological changes of the lumbar spine muscles are not well characterised with ageing. To further the understanding of age-related degeneration of the lumbar spine musculature, normative morphological changes that occur within the paravertebral muscles must first be established. Methods A systematic review and meta-regressions were conducted adhering to PRISMA guidelines. Searches for published and unpublished data were completed in June 2019. Results Searches returned 4781 articles. 34 articles were included in the quantitative analysis. Three-level meta-analyses showed age-related atrophy (r = −0.26; 95% CI: −0.33, −0.17) and fat infiltration (r = 0.39; 95% CI: 0.28, 0.50) in the lumbar paravertebral muscles. Degenerative changes were muscle-specific and men (r = −0.32; 95% CI: −0.61, 0.01) exhibited significantly greater muscle atrophy than women (r = −0.24; 95% CI: −0.47, 0.03). Imaging modality, specifically ultrasound, also influenced age-related muscle atrophy. Measurements taken across all lumbar levels revealed the greatest fat infiltration with ageing (r = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.35, 0.74). Moderators explained a large proportion of between-study variance in true effects for muscle atrophy (72.6%) and fat infiltration (79.8%) models. Conclusions Lumbar paravertebral muscles undergo age-related degeneration in healthy adults with muscle, lumbar level and sex-specific responses. Future studies should use high-resolution imaging modalities to quantify muscle atrophy and fat infiltration.