Validity and reliability of computerized measurement of lumbar intervertebral disc height and volume from magnetic resonance images Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Magnetic resonance (MR) examinations of morphologic characteristics of intervertebral discs (IVDs) have been used extensively for biomechanical studies and clinical investigations of the lumbar spine. Traditionally, the morphologic measurements have been performed using time- and expertise-intensive manual segmentation techniques not well suited for analyses of large-scale studies.. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to introduce and validate a semiautomated method for measuring IVD height and mean sagittal area (and volume) from MR images to determine if it can replace the manual assessment and enable analyses of large MR cohorts. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: This study compares semiautomated and manual measurements and assesses their reliability and agreement using data from repeated MR examinations. METHODS: Seven healthy asymptomatic males underwent 1.5-T MR examinations of the lumbar spine involving sagittal T2-weighted fast spin-echo images obtained at baseline, pre-exercise, and postexercise conditions. Measures of the mean height and the mean sagittal area of lumbar IVDs (L1-L2 to L4-L5) were compared for two segmentation approaches: a conventional manual method (10-15 minutes to process one IVD) and a specifically developed semiautomated method (requiring only a few mouse clicks to process each subject). RESULTS: Both methods showed strong test-retest reproducibility evaluated on baseline and pre-exercise examinations with strong intraclass correlations for the semiautomated and manual methods for mean IVD height (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC]=0.99, 0.98) and mean IVD area (ICC=0.98, 0.99), respectively. A bias (average deviation) of 0.38 mm (4.1%, 95% confidence interval 0.18-0.59 mm) was observed between the manual and semiautomated methods for the IVD height, whereas there was no statistically significant difference for the mean IVD area (0.1%±3.5%). The semiautomated and manual methods both detected significant exercise-induced changes in IVD height (0.20 and 0.28 mm) and mean IVD area (5.7 and 8.3 mm(2)), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The presented semiautomated method provides an alternative to time- and expertise-intensive manual procedures for analysis of larger, cross-sectional, interventional, and longitudinal MR studies for morphometric analyses of lumbar IVDs.


publication date

  • 2014