Analysis of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging and biomechanical parameters on human discs with different grades of degeneration

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2013 Dec;38(6):1402-14. doi: 10.1002/jmri.24120. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Purpose: To establish relationships between quantitative MRI (qMRI) and biomechanical parameters in order to help inform and interpret alterations of human intervertebral discs (IVD) with different grades of degeneration.

Materials and methods: The properties of the nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF) of each IVD of 10 lumbar spines (range, 32-77 years) were analyzed by qMRI (relaxation times T1 and T2, magnetization transfer ratio [MTR], and apparent diffusion coefficient [ADC]), and tested in confined compression and dynamic shear.

Results: T1 and T2 significantly decreased in both the NP and AF with increasing degeneration grades while the MTR increased significantly with grade 4. In contrast to the other qMRI parameters, the ADC had a tendency to decrease with increasing grade. Disc degeneration caused a decrease in the aggregate modulus, hydraulic permeability and shear modulus magnitude along with an increase in phase angle in the AF. In contrast, disc degeneration of NPs demonstrated decreases in shear modulus and phase angle.

Conclusion: Our studies indicate that qMRI can be used as a noninvasive diagnostic tool in the detection of IVD properties with the potential to help interpret and detect early, middle, and late stages of degeneration. QMRI of human IVD can therefore become a very important diagnostic assessment tool in determining the functional state of the disc.

Keywords: biomechanics; intervertebral disc degeneration; permeability; quantitative MRI; shear modulus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Compressive Strength
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiopathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Permeability
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shear Strength