Clinically Feasible Microstructural MRI to Quantify Cervical Spinal Cord Tissue Injury Using DTI, MT, and T2*-Weighted Imaging: Assessment of Normative Data and Reliability

Fellows’ Journal Club

Forty healthy subjects underwent T2WI, DTI, magnetization transfer, and T2*WI at 3T in <35 minutes using standard hardware and pulse sequences. Cross-sectional area, fractional anisotropy, magnetization transfer ratio, and T2*WI WM/GM signal intensity ratio were calculated. Reliable multiparametric assessment of spinal cord microstructure is possible by using clinically suitable methods. These results establish normalization procedures and pave the way for clinical studies.

Abstract

Figure 1 from paper
Representative images showing FA maps (A), MTR maps (B), and T2*WI (C) with probabilistic maps of the lateral corticospinal tracts (blue) and dorsal columns (red-yellow) overlaid (D–F) following registration to the SCT atlas.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

DTI, magnetization transfer, T2*-weighted imaging, and cross-sectional area can quantify aspects of spinal cord microstructure. However, clinical adoption remains elusive due to complex acquisitions, cumbersome analysis, limited reliability, and wide ranges of normal values. We propose a simple multiparametric protocol with automated analysis and report normative data, analysis of confounding variables, and reliability.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Forty healthy subjects underwent T2WI, DTI, magnetization transfer, and T2*WI at 3T in <35 minutes using standard hardware and pulse sequences. Cross-sectional area, fractional anisotropy, magnetization transfer ratio, and T2*WI WM/GM signal intensity ratio were calculated. Relationships between MR imaging metrics and age, sex, height, weight, cervical cord length, and rostrocaudal level were analyzed. Test-retest coefficient of variation measured reliability in 24 DTI, 17 magnetization transfer, and 16 T2*WI datasets. DTI with and without cardiac triggering was compared in 10 subjects.

RESULTS

T2*WI WM/GM showed lower intersubject coefficient of variation (3.5%) compared with magnetization transfer ratio (5.8%), fractional anisotropy (6.0%), and cross-sectional area (12.2%). Linear correction of cross-sectional area with cervical cord length, fractional anisotropy with age, and magnetization transfer ratio with age and height led to decreased coefficients of variation (4.8%, 5.4%, and 10.2%, respectively). Acceptable reliability was achieved for all metrics/levels (test-retest coefficient of variation < 5%), with T2*WI WM/GM comparing favorably with fractional anisotropy and magnetization transfer ratio. DTI with and without cardiac triggering showed no significant differences for fractional anisotropy and test-retest coefficient of variation.

CONCLUSIONS

Reliable multiparametric assessment of spinal cord microstructure is possible by using clinically suitable methods. These results establish normalization procedures and pave the way for clinical studies, with the potential for improving diagnostics, objectively monitoring disease progression, and predicting outcomes in spinal pathologies.

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Clinically Feasible Microstructural MRI to Quantify Cervical Spinal Cord Tissue Injury Using DTI, MT, and T2*-Weighted Imaging: Assessment of Normative Data and Reliability
jross
Jeffrey Ross • Mayo Clinic, Phoenix

Dr. Jeffrey S. Ross is a Professor of Radiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and practices neuroradiology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. His publications include over 100 peer-reviewed articles, nearly 60 non-refereed articles, 33 book chapters, and 10 books. He was an AJNR Senior Editor from 2006-2015, is a member of the editorial board for 3 other journals, and a manuscript reviewer for 10 journals. He became Editor-in-Chief of the AJNR in July 2015. He received the Gold Medal Award from the ASSR in 2013.

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