The direct and secondary changes following diode laser irradiation of intervertebral discs were studied in rabbits. A quartz fiber was inserted into the discs, and laser irradiation was applied. Subsequently, the lumbar vertebrae were extracted en bloc, and subjected to sagittal magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and histologic examination immediately after irradiation, and 3, 12, and 24 weeks after irradiation. MR images showed low signal intensity of the intervertebral discs on T2-weighted images 3 weeks after irradiation, which remained unchanged to 24 weeks. Although the signal intensity of the adjacent vertebral bodies remained unchanged on T1-weighted images, the intensity was high on T2-weighted images 3 weeks after irradiation, but had reverted to normal or was low 12 to 24 weeks after irradiation. On histologic examination, the inner layer of the annulus fibrosus was seen to protrude into the void created by vaporization of the nucleus pulposus 3 weeks after irradiation. Multinuclear chondrocytes were observed, as if the disc was being reconstructed. Fibrous tissue in the epiphysis and metaphysis was observed soon after irradiation but decreased over time and was replaced by normal bone marrow.