Skip Navigation LinksHome > June 15, 2012 - Volume 37 - Issue 14 > T1ρ Magnetic Resonance Imaging Quantification of Early Lumba...
doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31824b2450

T1ρ Magnetic Resonance Imaging Quantification of Early Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Degeneration in Healthy Young Adults

Zobel, Bruno Beomonte MD*; Vadalà, Gianluca MD; Del Vescovo, Riccardo MD*; Battisti, Sofia MD; Martina, Francesca Maria MD*; Stellato, Luigi MD*; Leoncini, Emanuele PhD; Borthakur, Arijitt PhD§; Denaro, Vincenzo MD

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Study Design. Cross-sectional study using T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of lumbar spine in healthy young adults.

Objective. To evaluate early intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) quantified by T- and T2-weighted MRI in asymptomatic young adults and to correlate T value with Pfirrmann degenerative grade, sex, and body mass index (BMI).

Summary of Background Data. Intervertebral disc starts early to degenerate losing proteoglycan content in the nucleus pulposus (NP). A potential tool for the study of early stage of IDD is T MRI. T relaxation time of human discs has been correlated to proteoglycan content in previous studies.

Methods. T- and T2-weighted images of the lumbar spine were obtained for 63 asymptomatic young subjects (34 men and 29 women; mean age, 22.95 ± 1.8 yr), with a 1.5-T MRI scanner. T mapping and values in the NP and anulus fibrosus (n = 315) were obtained. Degenerative grade was assessed using T2-weighted images, according to the Pfirrmann scale. Differences in T value between sexes, BMI, and linear regression analyses with degenerative grade were determined.

Results. T values of NPs were significantly higher than those of anulus fibrosus at all levels. T values were significantly lower in women at L3–L4 and L4–L5 discs (P < 0.05). T values decreased linearly with degenerative grade. However, nondegenerated discs (Pfirrmann grades 1 and 2) showed a wide range of T relaxation time. No significant correlation was observed between T value and BMI.

Conclusion. The data of this study showed a significant difference in IDD onset between sexes. T values correlate with Pfirrmann degenerative grade in young adults. However, the wide distribution of T values in healthy intervertebral disc highlights the low sensitivity of Pfirrmann grade to detect the early IDD changes. T can be potentially used as a clinical tool to identify early IDD and to create a reliable quantitative scale.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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