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Eur Spine J. 2011 Mar;20(3):434-9. doi: 10.1007/s00586-010-1664-7. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

In vitro evaluation of a manganese chloride phantom-based MRI technique for quantitative determination of lumbar intervertebral disc composition and condition.

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  • 1Bone and Joint Research Laboratory, Surgical Pathology SA Pathology, Frome Rd, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.


The application of MRI as a non-invasive, quantitative tool for diagnosing lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration is currently an area of active research. The objective of this study was to examine, in vitro, the efficacy of a manganese chloride phantom-based MRI technique for quantitatively assessing lumbar disc composition and degenerative condition. Sixteen human lumbar discs were imaged ex vivo using T2-weighted MRI, and assigned a quantitative grade based on the relative signal intensities of nine phantoms containing serial concentrations of manganese chloride. Discs were then graded macroscopically for degenerative condition, and water and uronic acid (glycosaminoglycan) contents were determined. MRI ranking exhibited significant and strong negative correlation with nucleus pulposus uronic acid content (r = -0.78). MRI grades were significantly higher for degenerate discs. The technique described presents immediate potential for in vitro studies requiring robust, minimally invasive and quantitative determination of lumbar disc composition and condition. Additionally, the technique may have potential as a clinical tool for diagnosing lumbar disc degeneration as it provides a standardised series of reference phantoms facilitating cross-platform consistency, requires short scan times and simple T2-weighted signal intensity measurements.

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