Whether diurnal variation exists in quantitative MRI indices such as the T1rho relaxation time (T1ρ) of the intervertebral disc (IVD) is yet to be explored. This prospective study aimed to evaluate the diurnal variation in T1ρ, apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), and electrical conductivity (σ) of lumbar IVD and its relationship with other MRI or clinical indices. Lumbar spine MRI, including T1ρ imaging, diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), and electric properties tomography (EPT), was conducted on 17 sedentary workers twice (morning and evening) on the same day. The T1ρ, ADC, and σ of IVD were compared between the time points. Their diurnal variation, if any, was tested for correlation with age, body mass index (BMI), IVD level, Pfirrmann grade, scan interval, and diurnal variation in IVD height index. The results showed a significant decrease in T1ρ and ADC and a significant increase in the σ of IVD in the evening. T1ρ variation had a weak correlation with age and scan interval, and ADC variation with scan interval. Diurnal variation exists for the T1ρ, ADC, and σ of lumbar IVD, which should be accounted for in image interpretation. This variation is thought to be due to diurnal variations in intradiscal water, proteoglycan, and sodium ion concentration.
Keywords: MRI; T1ρ; apparent diffusion coefficient; diffusion-weighted imaging; diurnal; electric properties tomography; electrical conductivity; intervertebral disc; lumbar; quantitative.