Medical College of Wisconsin
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Intervertebral disc height loss demonstrates the threshold of major pathological changes during degeneration. Eur Spine J 2015 Sep;24(9):1944-50



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-84940101594   20 Citations


PURPOSE: Quantitative MRI techniques were utilized to study intervertebral disc degeneration. Main focus was to develop a novel approach to quantify disc height loss associated with disc degeneration. Currently there is no universally accepted metric of degeneration based on measurement of disc height. Such quantitative imaging methods would complement qualitative visual assessment methods currently used and offer a valuable diagnostic tool.

METHODS: 51 adult participants took part in this MRI study. T2 weighted images were used to obtain disc height index (DHI) and also a semi-quantitative metric based on relative voxel intensities. For DHI, each disc was given a score based on standard deviations from the mean DHI of healthy discs. Diffusion Weighted MRI was used to assess morphological changes in the nucleus pulposus. Conventional Pfirrmann classification was used as the gold standard to assess these quantitative approaches.

RESULTS: At deviations of up to 1.5σ below normative disc height, levels of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and normalized T2 intensity were maintained. Once disc compression reached 1.5σ, there was a massive drop in ADC and normalized T2 intensity. Pfirrmann degeneration scores also increased after the 1.5σ mark.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides new, unbiased quantitative imaging tools to assess disc degeneration. We observed that these quantitative MRI measures indicate a threshold beyond which major pathological changes take place concurrently. Combined information from DHI, ADC and T2 images construct a set of novel biomarkers that could be used to identify degenerating discs that are approaching the threshold and possibly intervene before major pathologic changes occur.

Author List

Jarman JP, Arpinar VE, Baruah D, Klein AP, Maiman DJ, Muftuler LT


Andrew P. Klein MD Chief, Associate Professor in the Radiology department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Dennis J. Maiman MD, PhD Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Lutfi Tugan Muftuler PhD Associate Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Analysis of Variance
Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Intervertebral Disc Degeneration
Lumbar Vertebrae
Middle Aged
Young Adult
jenkins-FCD Prod-466 5b81815b8b3d1f46bfec16512ed5f574613f59c5