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Saman Shabani, Mayank Kaushal, Matthew Budde and Shekar N. Kurpad

OBJECTIVE

Conventional MRI is routinely used to demonstrate the anatomical site of spinal cord injury (SCI). However, quantitative and qualitative imaging parameters have limited use in predicting neurological outcomes. Currently, there are no reliable neuroimaging biomarkers to predict short- and long-term outcome after SCI.

METHODS

A prospective cohort of 23 patients with SCI (19 with cervical SCI [CSCI] and 4 with thoracic SCI [TSCI]) treated between 2007 and 2014 was included in the study. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) score was determined at the time of arrival and at 1-year follow-up. Only 15 patients (12 with CSCI and 3 with TSCI) had 1-year follow-up. Whole-cord fractional anisotropy (FA) was determined at C1–2, following which C1–2 was divided into upper, middle, and lower segments and the corresponding FA value at each of these segments was calculated. Correlation analysis was performed between FA and ASIA score at time of arrival and 1-year follow-up.

RESULTS

Correlation analysis showed a positive but nonsignificant correlation (p = 0.095) between FA and ASIA score for all patients (CSCI and TCSI) at the time of arrival. Additional regression analysis consisting of only patients with CSCI showed a significant correlation (p = 0.008) between FA and ASIA score at time of arrival as well as at 1-year follow-up (p = 0.025). Furthermore, in case of patients with CSCI, a significant correlation between FA value at each of the segments (upper, middle, and lower) of C1–2 and ASIA score at time of arrival was found (p = 0.017, p = 0.015, and p = 0.002, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with CSCI, the measurement of diffusion anisotropy of the high cervical cord (C1–2) correlates significantly with injury severity and long-term follow-up. However, this correlation is not seen in patients with TSCI. Therefore, FA can be used as an imaging biomarker for evaluating neural injury and monitoring recovery in patients with CSCI.

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Saman Shabani, Mayank Kaushal, Matthew Budde, Brian Schmit, Marjorie C. Wang and Shekar Kurpad

OBJECTIVE

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a common cause of spinal cord dysfunction. Recently, it has been shown that diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) may be a better biomarker than T2-weighted signal intensity (T2SI) on MRI for CSM. However, there is very little literature on a comparison between the quantitative measurements of DTI and T2SI in the CSM patient population to determine disease severity and recovery.

METHODS

A prospective analysis of 46 patients with both preoperative DTI and T2-weighted MRI was undertaken. Normalized T2SI (NT2SI), regardless of the presence or absence of T2SI at the level of maximum compression (LMC), was determined by calculating the T2SI at the LMC/T2SI at the level of the foramen magnum. Regression analysis was performed to determine the relationship of fractional anisotropy (FA), a quantitative measure derived from DTI, and NT2SI individually as well their combination with baseline preoperative modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score and ∆mJOA score at the 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-month follow-ups. Goodness-of-fit analysis was done using residual diagnostics. In addition, mixed-effects regression analysis was used to evaluate the impact of FA and NT2SI individually. A p value < 0.05 was selected to indicate statistical significance.

RESULTS

Regression analysis showed a significant positive correlation between FA at the LMC and preoperative mJOA score (p = 0.041) but a significant negative correlation between FA at the LMC and the ΔmJOA score at the 12-month follow-up (p = 0.010). All other relationships between FA at the LMC and the baseline preoperative mJOA score or ∆mJOA score at the 3-, 6-, and 24-month follow-ups were not statistically significant. For NT2SI and the combination of FA and NT2SI, no significant relationships with preoperative mJOA score or ∆mJOA at 3, 6, and 24 months were seen on regression analysis. However, there was a significant correlation of combined FA and NT2SI with ∆mJOA score at the 12-month follow-up. Mixed-effects regression revealed that FA measured at the LMC was the only significant predictor of ΔmJOA score (p = 0.03), whereas NT2SI and time were not. Goodness-of-fit analysis did not show any evidence of lack of fit.

CONCLUSIONS

In this large prospective study of CSM patients, FA at LMC appears to be a better biomarker for determining long-term outcomes following surgery in CSM patients than NT2SI or the combination values at LMC.