Value of Delayed Gadolinium-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cartilage for the Pre-Operative Assessment of Cervical Intervertebral Discs

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The study was performed to preoperatively assess the cartilage integrity of cervical intervertebral discs (IVDs) using Delayed Gadolinium-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cartilage (dGEMRIC). Therefore, 53 cervical intervertebral discs of nine preoperative patients with neck and shoulder/arm pain scheduled for discectomy (five females, four males; mean age: 47.1 ± 8.4 years; range: 36–58 years) were included for biochemical analysis in this retrospective study. The patients underwent 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) including biochemical imaging with dGEMRIC and morphological, sagittal T2 weighted (T2w) imaging. Cervical IVDs were rated using an MRI based grading system for cervical IVDs on T2w images. Region-of-interest measurements were performed in the nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF) and a dGEMRIC index was calculated. Our results demonstrated that IVDs scheduled for discectomy showed significantly lower dGEMRIC index compared to IVDs that did not require surgical intervention in NP and AF (NP: 898.4 ± 191.9 ms vs. 1,150.3 ± 320.7 ms, p = 0.008; AF: 738.7 ± 183.8 ms vs. 984.6 ± 178.9 ms, p = 0.008). For Miyazaki score 3, the dGEMRIC indices were significantly lower in IVDs scheduled for surgery compared to non-operated discs for NP (p = 0.043) and AF (p = 0.018). In conclusion we could demonstrate that biochemical imaging with dGEMRIC is feasible in cervical IVDs. Significantly lower dGEMRIC index suggested GAG depletion in degenerated cervical IVD, scheduled for discectomy.

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