Background contextMagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the standard imaging modality for the assessment of cervical spinal cord; however, MRI assessment of the spinal cord in cervical spondylotic myelopathy patients has not demonstrated a consistent association with neurologic function or outcome after surgical or medical intervention. Thus, there is a need for sensitive imaging biomarkers that can predict functional impairment in patients with advanced cervical spondylosis.
PurposeTo implement diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) as an imaging biomarker for microstructural integrity and functional impairment in patients with cervical spondylosis.
Study designNonrandomized, single institution study.
Patient sampleForty-eight cervical spondylosis patients with or without spinal cord signal change underwent DTI of the spinal cord along with functional assessment.
Outcome measuresFunctional measures of neurologic function via modified Japanese Orthopedic Association (mJOA) score.
MethodsA zoomed-echoplanar imaging technique and two-dimensional spatially selective radiofrequency excitation pulse were used for DTI measurement. Fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), radial and axial diffusion (AD) coefficient, AD anisotropy, ψ, defined as AD-MD, and the standard deviation (SD) of primary eigenvector orientation were evaluated at the site of compression.
ResultsResults suggest average FA, transverse apparent diffusion coefficient, ψ, and SD of primary eigenvector orientation at the spinal level of highest compression were linearly correlated with mJOA score. Receiver-operator characteristic analysis suggested FA and ψ could identify stenosis patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms with a relatively high sensitivity and specificity.
ConclusionsThe results of this study support the potential use of DTI as a biomarker for predicting functional impairment in patients with cervical spondylosis.