A method for quantifying intervertebral disc signal intensity on T2-weighted imaging

Masaki Nagashima, Hitoshi Abe, Kenji Amaya, Hideo Matsumoto, Hisashi Yanaihara, Yuji Nishiwaki, Yoshiaki Toyama, Morio Matsumoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Quantification of intervertebral disc degeneration based on intensity of the nucleus pulposus in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) often uses the mean intensity of the region of interest (ROI) within the nucleus pulposus. However, the location and size of ROI have varied in different reports, and none of the reported methods can be considered fully objective. Purpose: To develop a more objective method of establishing ROIs for quantitative evaluation of signal intensity in the nucleus pulposus using T2-weighted MRI. Material and Methods: A 1.5-T scanner was used to obtain T2-weighted mid-sagittal images. A total of 288 intervertebral discs from 48 patients (25 men, 23 women) were analyzed. Mean age was 47.4 years (range, 17-69 years). All discs were classified into five grades according to Pfirrmann et al. Discs in grades I and II were defined as bright discs, and discs in grades IV and V were defined as dark discs. Eight candidate methods of ROI determination were devised. The method offering the highest degree of discrimination between bright and dark discs was investigated among these eight methods. Results: The method with the greatest degree of discrimination was as follows. The quadrangle formed by anterior and posterior edges of the upper and lower end plates in contact with the intervertebral disc to be measured was defined as the intervertebral area. A shape similar to the intervertebral area but with one-quarter the area was drawn. The geometrical center of the shape was matched to the center of intensity, and this shape was then used as the ROI. Satisfactory validity and reproducibility were obtained using this method. Conclusion: The present method offers adequate discrimination and could be useful for longitudinal tracking of intervertebral disc degeneration with sufficient reproducibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1065
Number of pages7
JournalActa Radiologica
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov


  • Intervertebral disc degeneration
  • MR imaging
  • Quantification
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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