Study Design. Evaluation of degenerated intervertebral discs from a rabbit annular puncture model by using specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, including displacement encoding with stimulated echoes and a fast-spin echo (DENSE-FSE) acquisition and delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC).
Objective. To evaluate a rabbit disc degeneration model by using various MRI techniques. To determine the displacements and strains, spin-lattice relaxation time (T1), and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) distribution of degenerated discs as compared to normal and adjacent level discs.
Summary of Background Data. Annular puncture of the intervertebral disc produces disc degeneration in rabbits. DENSE-FSE has been previously demonstrated in articular cartilage for the measurement of soft tissue displacements and strains. MRI also can measure the T1 of tissue, and dGEMRIC can quantify GAG concentration in cartilage.
Methods. In eight New Zealand white rabbits, the annulus fibrosis of a lumbar disc was punctured. After 4 weeks, the punctured and cranially adjacent motion segments were isolated for MRI and histology. MRI was used to estimate the disc volume and map T1. DENSE-FSE was used to determine displacements for the estimation of strains. dGEMRIC was then used to determine GAG distributions.
Results. Histology and standard MRI indicated degeneration in punctured discs. Disc volume increased significantly at 4 weeks after the puncture. Displacement of the nucleus pulposus was distinct from that of the annulus fibrosis in most untreated discs but not in punctured discs. T1 was significantly higher and GAG concentration significantly lower in punctured discs compared with untreated adjacent level discs.
Conclusion. Noninvasive and quantitative MRI techniques can be used to evaluate the mechanical and biochemical changes that occur with animal models of disc degeneration. DENSE-FSE, dGEMRIC, and similar techniques have potential for evaluating the progression of disc degeneration and the efficacy of treatments.