Is post-contrast MRI a valuable method for the study of the nutrition of the intervertebral disc?

Fabio Galbusera, Marco Brayda-Bruno, Hans Joachim Wilke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decreased nutrition has been proposed as a potential mechanism leading to intervertebral disc degeneration. A method to investigate it in vivo is the MRI evaluation of the transport of a paramagnetic contrast agent, which is assumed to diffuse through the endplate to the disc using the same mechanisms as the cell nutrients. However, previous numerical studies questioned the value of this method as a model to investigate disc nutrition. To assess its validity, a parametric osmoporoelastic finite element model of a lumbar intervertebral disc incorporating diffusion and convection of a solute (representing the contrast agent) was developed. A Taguchi sensitivity analysis was performed in order to assess the relevance of various parameters which influence the solute transport. Subsequently, a full-factorial sensitivity analysis was used to investigate specifically the diffusion coefficients of the contrast agent. The most important parameters in determining the results were the disc height, the diffusion coefficients and the pharmacokinetic of the contrast agent. However, diffusion coefficients values as measured in in vitro studies would lead to insubstantial enhancement of the MRI signal. Thus, transport mechanisms other than pure diffusion should be active in in vivo transport of the contrast agent. In conclusion, the study showed that post-contrast MRI may not be suited for a quantitative analysis, but only for a qualitative examination aimed for example to detect endplate lesions. Open questions remain on the use of post-contrast MRI for the investigation of the relevance of reduced nutrition as a trigger to disc degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3028-3034
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Sep 22 2014


  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion coefficient
  • Disc nutrition
  • Finite element
  • Gadoteridol
  • Post-contrast MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine(all)


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