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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2015

Quantitative T2 relaxation time and magnetic transfer ratio predict endplate biochemical content of intervertebral disc degeneration in a canine model

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2015
Chun Chen, Zhiwei Jia, Zhihua Han, Tao Gu, Wei Li, Hao Li, Yong Tang, Jianhong Wu, Deli Wang, Qin He, Dike Ruan
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12891-015-0610-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Chun Chen, Zhiwei Jia and Zhihua Han contributed equally to this work.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

CC, ZWJ, and ZHH performed experimental surgery. TG, WL, and YT performed radiological and MRI evaluation. JHW and DLW performed histological evaluation. QH performed ELIAS analysis. DKR and CC conceived of the study and participated in its design. CC, ZWJ and ZHH drafted the manuscript. HL performed the statistical analysis. DKR revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Direct measurement of disc biochemical content is impossible in vivo. Therefore, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to evaluate disc health. Unfortunately, current clinical imaging techniques do not adequately assess degeneration, especially in the early stage of cartilage endplate, and subchondral bone zone (CEPZ). Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the sensitivity of quantitative MRI methods, namely T2 relaxation time and Magnetic Transfer Ratio (MTR), to identify early disc degeneration, especially for the CEPZ, using an experimental canine model of intervertebral disc injury and to investigate their sensitivity in depicting biochemically and histologically controlled degenerative changes in the disc.


Sixteen juvenile dogs underwent iatrogenic annular disruption via stab incisions. The animals underwent repeated 3.0 T MR imaging, and were sacrificed 4, 8, and 12 weeks post-operatively. A continuous rectangle drawing method was used to select regions of interest for the intervertebral disc from the cephalic to caudal CEPZ including the vertebrae, nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF), which resembled pixel measurement for imaging analysis. Presence of degenerative changes was controlled by biochemical and histological analyses. The correlations between histological score, biochemical content, and quantitative MRI signal intensities were also analyzed.


Both T2 relaxation time and MTR values changed for CEPZ, NP, and AF tissues within 12 weeks. T2 relaxation time values decreased significantly in the NP, AF, and CEPZ separately at pre-operation, 4, 8, and 12 weeks when compared each time (P < 0.05). MTR values showed no significant differences for the CEPZ between 8 and 4 weeks or 12 weeks, or compared to pre-operative values; there were significant differences for the AF. Biochemical and histological analysis showed changes consistent with quantitative MRI signal intensities for early stage degeneration.


Early traumatic or degenerative changes are detectable with both T2 and MTR. T2 changes were more sensitive to the differences in disc status, especially for the CEPZ. Since T2 and MTR reflect different disc properties, performing both imaging under the same conditions would be helpful in the evaluation of disc degeneration. The continuous rectangle drawing can be a sensitive method to detect the changes of CEPZ.
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