T 2 -weighted magnetic resonance imaging texture as predictor of low back pain: A texture analysis-based classification pipeline to symptomatic and asymptomatic cases

J Orthop Res. 2020 Dec 24. doi: 10.1002/jor.24973. Online ahead of print.


Low back pain is a very common symptom and the leading cause of disability throughout the world. Several degenerative imaging findings seen on magnetic resonance imaging are associated with low back pain but none of them is specific for the presence of low back pain as abnormal findings are prevalent among asymptomatic subjects as well. The purpose of this population-based study was to investigate if more specific magnetic resonance imaging predictors of low back pain could be found via texture analysis and machine learning. We used this methodology to classify T2 -weighted magnetic resonance images from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 data to symptomatic and asymptomatic groups. Lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging was performed using a fast spin-echo sequence at 1.5 T. Texture analysis pipeline consisting of textural feature extraction, principal component analysis, and logistic regression classifier was applied to the data to classify them into symptomatic (clinically relevant pain with frequency ≥30 days and intensity ≥6/10) and asymptomatic (frequency ≤7 days, intensity ≤3/10, and no previous pain episodes in the follow-up period) groups. Best classification results were observed applying texture analysis to the two lowest intervertebral discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1), with accuracy of 83%, specificity of 83%, sensitivity of 82%, negative predictive value of 94%, precision of 56%, and receiver operating characteristic area-under-curve of 0.91. To conclude, textural features from T2 -weighted magnetic resonance images can be applied in low back pain classification.

Keywords: low back pain; lumbar spine; machine learning; magnetic resonance imaging; texture analysis.