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Neuroimage. 2012 Nov 15;63(3):1054-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.07.048. Epub 2012 Jul 28.

Feasibility of grey matter and white matter segmentation of the upper cervical cord in vivo: a pilot study with application to magnetisation transfer measurements.

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NMR Research Unit, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


Spinal cord pathology can be functionally very important in neurological disease. Pathological studies have demonstrated the involvement of spinal cord grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) in several diseases, although the clinical relevance of abnormalities detected histopathologically is difficult to assess without a reliable way to assess cord GM and WM in vivo. In this study, the feasibility of GM and WM segmentation was investigated in the upper cervical spinal cord of 10 healthy subjects, using high-resolution images acquired with a commercially available 3D gradient-echo pulse sequence at 3T. For each healthy subject, tissue-specific (i.e. WM and GM) cross-sectional areas were segmented and total volumes calculated from a 15 mm section acquired at the level of C2-3 intervertebral disc and magnetisation transfer ratio (MTR) values within the extracted volumes were also determined, as an example of GM and WM quantitative measurements in the cervical cord. Mean (± SD) total cord cross-sectional area (TCA) and total cord volume (TCV) of the section studied across 10 healthy subjects were 86.9 (± 7.7) mm(2) and 1302.8 (± 115) mm(3), respectively; mean (±SD) total GM cross-sectional area (TGMA) and total GM volume (TGMV) were 14.6 (± 1.1) mm(2) and 218.3 (± 16.8) mm(3), respectively; mean (± SD) GM volume fraction (GMVF) was 0.17 (± 0.01); mean (± SD) MTR of the total WM volume (WM-MTR) was 51.4 (± 1.5) and mean (± SD) MTR of the total GM volume (GM-MTR) was 49.7 (± 1.6). The mean scan-rescan, intra- and inter-observer % coefficient of variation for measuring the TCA were 0.7%, 0.5% and 0.5% and for measuring the TGMA were 6.5%, 5.4% and 12.7%. The difference between WM-MTR and GM-MTR was found to be statistically significant (p=0.00006). This study has shown that GM and WM segmentation in the cervical cord is possible and the MR imaging protocol and analysis method presented here in healthy controls can be potentially extended to study the cervical cord in disease states, with the option to explore further quantitative measurements alongside MTR.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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