University of Oulu

Magnetic resonance imaging of the intervertebral disc : post-traumatic findings and the value of diffusion-weighted MR imaging

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Author: Kerttula, Liisa1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Diagnostic Radiology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2001
Publish Date: 2001-09-18
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium 7 of the University Hospital of Oulu, on October 12th, 2001, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Docent Antti Lamminen
Docent Jouko J. Salminen


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides important information about structural and biochemical changes in organs. MRI is also an effective imaging method for the evaluation of spinal disorders. However, many of its potential applications — particularly diffusion imaging — have not yet been thoroughly explored.

The purpose of this study was to determine the MRI-detectable changes in the intervertebral disc after trauma and to test the feasibility of diffusion-weighted MR imaging of the intervertebral discs.

A minipig model was used in the experimental study to determine the MRI changes in the intervertebral disc after peripheral annular lesions in different time frames. Three of eight discs with experimental annular lesions had a normal annular appearance in MRI. Annular lesions, when detectable, were manifested as a bulging of the disc or as a high-intensity zone (HIZ) inside the annulus. Either the signal intensity or the area of bright signal intensity in the nucleus had nearly always decreased after one month, but they were still detectable even in cases where no signs of annular trauma could be seen in the MR images. The histology of HIZ is presented for the first time: clusters of nuclear cells and disorganized granulation tissue with capillaries were detected in the HIZ area.

Fourteen patients 8 to 21 years of age with histories of vertebral fracture at least one year previously and 14 asymptomatic healthy control subjects 8 to 22 years of age were studied by MRI. In these young people a vertebral fracture, especially with end-plate injury, proved to be a notable risk factor for initiating disc degeneration.

The apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) of the thoracolumbar intervertebral discs were determined in three orthogonal directions in 18 healthy young volunteers aged 8–22 years. The ADCs were also determined in 10 young patients with previous vertebral fractures, and clear decreases were found in the ADCx and ADCy directions, but in the ADCz direction values had not changed significantly as compared to the values in the controls. The most marked changes were observed in the degenerated discs, followed by those in the discs with a normal signal intensity adjacent to the primary trauma area. Diffusion-weighted MR imaging affords a useful tool for evaluating disc diseases in the early phases.

Additionally, 37 adult volunteers without back symptoms were studied by MRI and by magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and it was found that the status of the lumbar arteries significantly explained the diffusion values in the lumbar intervertebral discs. The correlation between disc degeneration and diffusion was mostly linear, but not significant.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-6471-1
ISBN Print: 951-42-6470-3
Issue: 643
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2001. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.