European Spine Journal

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 1005–1013 | Cite as

Diffusion kurtosis imaging provides quantitative assessment of the microstructure changes of disc degeneration: an in vivo experimental study

  • Li Li
  • Zhiguo Zhou
  • Jing Li
  • Jicheng Fang
  • Yuanyuan Qing
  • Tian Tian
  • Shun Zhang
  • Gang Wu
  • Alessandro Scotti
  • Kejia Cai
  • WenZhen ZhuEmail author
Original Article



Our aim was to assess the microstructural changes of intervertebral disc degeneration induced by annulus needle puncture in rats by diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI).


Eighteen rats (36 discs) were punctured percutaneously at the intervertebral disc between C6/7, C7/8 (C-coccygeal vertebrae) with a 21-gauge needle. The rats were divided into six groups according to the time after the puncture: 3 h, 48 h, 3 days, 7 days, 10 days and 14 days. There were six discs in three rats in the control group. The rats’ tail was imaged at 3T MRI with T2-weighted and diffusion-weighted and diffusion kurtosis imaging (DWI)/DKI sequences. The discs were categorized using a five-grade degeneration system based on the T2 images. The height of the discs and the parameters in DWI/DKI were measured and compared between the different time points. The histological images were also obtained from the discs.


The histological study revealed that the discs in the rat of the punctured groups were degenerated. The T2 grades of different groups presented an increasing trend from 7 to 10 days after puncture (R2 = 0.9424, P < 0.001), while the DWI/DKI parameters changes were consistent with the histological changes at the different time points and showed significant differences between the different groups (P < 0.05).


DKI provides quantitative assessment of the microstructure changes of disc degeneration, and it is a non-invasive method. The DKI multi-parameter analysis is sensitive to discs changes caused by puncture.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.


Spine Magnetic resonance imaging Diffusion kurtosis imaging Degenerative disc disease Diffusion-weighted imaging Animal model Microstructure 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has any potential conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

586_2019_5924_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (1.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 1786 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li Li
    • 1
  • Zhiguo Zhou
    • 2
  • Jing Li
    • 3
  • Jicheng Fang
    • 1
  • Yuanyuan Qing
    • 1
  • Tian Tian
    • 1
  • Shun Zhang
    • 1
  • Gang Wu
    • 1
  • Alessandro Scotti
    • 4
  • Kejia Cai
    • 4
  • WenZhen Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Radiological Department, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHUSTWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedics, Wuhan Children’s Hospital (Wuhan Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital), Tongji Medical CollegeHUSTWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHUSTWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Departments of Radiology, Department of Bioengineering, and the Center for MR ResearchUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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