Diffusion-weighted MRI and delayed contrast enhancement of degenerated intervertebral disc
Niinimäki, Jaakko (2009-09-01)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides methods to study the microstructure and functional properties of tissues that can be utilized to acquire information about the degenerative processes in the spine. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the value of diffusion-weighted MRI and quantification of delayed gadolinium enhancement in assessing intervertebral disc degeneration.
An experimental degeneration model was used to evaluate the sensitivity of diffusion-weighted MRI and T2 relaxation time measurements in detecting early degenerative changes in the disc. In six pigs, an annular disc lesion was induced surgically, after which the discs were repeatedly MR imaged for up to eight weeks. T2 relaxation time of the lesioned discs decreased postoperatively, whereas apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) initially increased, but at eight weeks decreased when compared to the control discs.
The value of ADC in degeneration of human discs was evaluated by imaging 228 voluntary middle-aged men. ADC values of the three lowest lumbar intervertebral discs were measured and disc degeneration was visually graded. The reduction in ADC between visually normal and moderately degenerated discs was 4%, whereas severely degenerated discs showed 5% higher ADC values than normal discs. T2 signal intensity of the discs was significantly correlated with the ADC values. Because of a considerable overlap between ADC values of normal and degenerated discs the clinical relevance of the ADC measurements of lumbar intervertebral discs remains questionable.
A method to quantify delayed enhancement of the nucleus pulposus after intravenous gadolinium contrast agent injection was developed to evaluate the diffusion of small solutes into the disc. Twenty male volunteers were imaged in order to correlate the measured change in the T1 relaxation rate with visually evaluated degenerative changes. The percentual change of T1 relaxation rate for individual discs was up to 126%, and a positive trend was observed between the delayed enhancement and the disc degeneration grades.
In order to study the factors that determine the intensity of delayed enhancement, T1 relaxation rate measurements were further correlated with lumbar artery stenosis, bone marrow changes adjacent to endplates, endplate defects, and ADC of the disc. Lumbar artery stenosis and ADC values of the discs were not correlated with enhancement, while disc space narrowing and the presence of degenerative endplate changes had a strong correlation, suggesting an important role for the endplate in maintaining the integrity of the disc.
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