Reduced Field-of-View Diffusion Tensor Imaging of the Spinal Cord Shows Motor Dysfunction of the Lower Extremities in Patients With Cervical Compression Myelopathy

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Abstract

Study Design.

A cross-sectional study.

Objective.

The aim of this study was to quantify spinal cord dysfunction at the tract level in patients with cervical compressive myelopathy (CCM) using reduced field-of-view (rFOV) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

Summary of Background Data.

Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the standard used for radiological evaluation of CCM, information acquired by MRI does not necessarily reflect the severity of spinal cord disorder. There is a growing interest in developing imaging methods to quantify spinal cord dysfunction. To acquire high-resolution DTI, a new scheme using rFOV has been proposed.

Methods.

We enrolled 10 healthy volunteers and 20 patients with CCM in this study. The participants were studied using a 3.0-T MRI system. For DTI acquisitions, diffusion-weighted spin-echo rFOV single-shot echo-planar imaging was used. Regions-of-interest (ROI) for the lateral column (LC) and posterior column (PC) tracts were determined on the basis of a map of fractional anisotropy (FA) of the spinal cord and FA values were measured. The FA of patients with CCM was compared with that of healthy controls and correlated with Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score.

Results.

In LC and PC tracts, FA values in patients with CCM were significantly lower than in healthy volunteers. Total JOA scores correlated moderately with FA in LC and PC tracts. JOA subscores for motor dysfunction of the lower extremities correlated strongly with FA in LC and PC tracts.

Conclusion.

It is feasible to evaluate the cervical spinal cord at the tract level using rFOV DTI. Although FA values at the maximum compression level were not well correlated with total JOA scores, they were strongly correlated with JOA subscores for motor dysfunction of the lower extremities. Our findings suggest that FA reflects white matter dysfunction below the maximum compression level and FA can be used as an imaging biomarker of spinal cord dysfunction.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 4

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