Spinal cord neural anatomy in rats examined by in vivo magnetic resonance microscopy

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 1998 Nov-Dec;23(6):589-99. doi: 10.1016/s1098-7339(98)90087-6.


Background and objectives: Magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) is a technique that is worthwhile for anesthesiologists because it allows spinal cord and plexus anatomy to be visualized three dimensionally and followed over time in the same animal. For example, the long-term effect of indwelling intrathecal or plexus catheters can be studied in situ, and convective and diffusive forces within intrathecal, epidural, or nerve sheath spaces can be investigated. Further, diffusion-weighted MRM, which measures an "apparent diffusion coefficient" (ADC), can be used to track the presence of ischemia, hypoperfusion, or cytotoxic edema. This study investigates problems associated with the use of in vivo MRM for spinal cord and peripheral nerve studies in the rat.

Methods: Twenty-one anesthetized female Fisher CDF rats were used. Group 1 (n=7) was used for anatomic three-dimensional studies. Groups 2 (n=4), 3 (n=4), and 4 (n=6) were used for measurements of the ADC. Group 2 served as controls, group 3 received lumbar intrathecal catheters, and group 4 received cervical intrathecal catheters.

Results: Cervical spine, lumbar spine, and spinal nerves and ganglia were accurately visualized with MRM. As a rule, spinal cord gray and white matter were better demonstrated using diffusion-weighted proton stains. By contrast, T2-weighted proton staining superiorly demonstrated structures surrounding the spinal cord. In groups 3 and 4, indwelling intrathecal catheters did not affect the spinal cord ADC, indicating normal blood flow and no cytotoxic edema. Contrast studies revealed nonhomogeneous distribution of contrast predominately in the lateral and ventral intrathecal space.

Conclusion: Three-dimensional diffusion-weighted MRM displays cervical and lumbar spine anatomy accurately in vivo. Apparent diffusion coefficients measurements are feasible in rat cervical spinal cord with intrathecal catheters. Spinal cord ADCs are unaffected by intrathecal catheters, indicating normal spinal cord perfusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Coloring Agents
  • Contrast Media
  • Diffusion
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Edema / pathology
  • Epidural Space
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Injections, Spinal / instrumentation
  • Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Neurilemma
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Cord / blood supply
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / pathology
  • Spinal Nerves / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Nerves / blood supply


  • Coloring Agents
  • Contrast Media