Quantitative assessment of intervertebral disc glycosaminoglycan distribution by gadolinium-enhanced MRI in orthopedic patients

Stefania Vaga, Manuela Teresa Raimondi, Enrico Gianluca Caiani, Francesco Costa, Carmen Giordano, Franco Perona, Alberto Zerbi, Maurizio Fornari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our hypothesis was that the enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) imaging protocol could be used in patients to quantify the sulfated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG) in intervertebral discs (IVD). To test this hypothesis, 23 patients with degenerative disc pathology scheduled for surgery were studied by a specific dGEMRIC protocol: each patient underwent two MRI scans, before and 3.5 hr after Gd(DTPA)2-injection of a nonconventional dose of 40 mL. Then, T 1PRE-ENH and T1POST-ENH parametric images of the disc were obtained, from which a new index ΔT1 of the molecular status of the IVD was computed (T1PRE-ENH - T-1POST-ENH). A total of 31 tissue samples (one or two from each patient) obtained at herniectomy were collected and biochemically analyzed for sGAG content and used as the gold standard for comparison. ΔT1 values in correspondence to degenerated sectors were higher (158 ± 36 ms) compared to normal sectors (80 ± 13 ms). Linear regression analysis between MRI-derived and biochemistry-derived measurements resulted in a significant correlation (r = 0.73, P <0.0001). The ΔT1 parametric images, calculated using the modified dGEMRIC technique, provided noninvasive quantitative information about sGAG content within discal tissue in vivo, which resulted in agreement with biochemical analysis. The application of this new MRI method could provide diagnostic information for standard treatment of lumbar discopathy and for innovative therapies of regenerative medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
Number of pages11
JournalMagnetic Resonance in Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Discopathy
  • Image processing
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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