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Evaluation of deep learning reconstructed high-resolution 3D lumbar spine MRI

  • Musculoskeletal
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To compare interobserver agreement and image quality of 3D T2-weighted fast spin echo (T2w-FSE) L-spine MRI images processed with a deep learning reconstruction (DLRecon) against standard-of-care (SOC) reconstruction, as well as against 2D T2w-FSE images. The hypothesis was that DLRecon 3D T2w-FSE would afford improved image quality and similar interobserver agreement compared to both SOC 3D and 2D T2w-FSE.


Under IRB approval, patients who underwent routine 3-T lumbar spine (L-spine) MRI from August 17 to September 17, 2020, with both isotropic 3D and 2D T2w-FSE sequences, were retrospectively included. A DLRecon algorithm, with denoising and sharpening properties was applied to SOC 3D k-space to generate 3D DLRecon images. Four musculoskeletal radiologists blinded to reconstruction status evaluated randomized images for motion artifact, image quality, central/foraminal stenosis, disc degeneration, annular fissure, disc herniation, and presence of facet joint cysts. Inter-rater agreement for each graded variable was evaluated using Conger’s kappa (κ).


Thirty-five patients (mean age 58 ± 19, 26 female) were evaluated. 3D DLRecon demonstrated statistically significant higher median image quality score (2.0/2) when compared to SOC 3D (1.0/2, p < 0.001), 2D axial (1.0/2, p < 0.001), and 2D sagittal sequences (1.0/2, p value < 0.001). κ ranges (and 95% CI) for foraminal stenosis were 0.55–0.76 (0.32–0.86) for 3D DLRecon, 0.56–0.73 (0.35–0.84) for SOC 3D, and 0.58–0.71 (0.33–0.84) for 2D. Mean κ (and 95% CI) for central stenosis at L4-5 were 0.98 (0.96–0.99), 0.97 (0.95–0.99), and 0.98 (0.96–0.99) for 3D DLRecon, 3D SOC and 2D, respectively.


DLRecon 3D T2w-FSE L-spine MRI demonstrated higher image quality and similar interobserver agreement for graded variables of interest when compared to 3D SOC and 2D imaging.

Key Points

3D DLRecon T2w-FSE isotropic lumbar spine MRI provides improved image quality when compared to 2D MRI, with similar interobserver agreement for clinical evaluation of pathology.

3D DLRecon images demonstrated better image quality score (2.0/2) when compared to standard-of-care (SOC) 3D (1.0/2), p value < 0.001; 2D axial (1.0/2), p value < 0.001; and 2D sagittal sequences (1.0/2), p value < 0.001.

Interobserver agreement for major variables of interest was similar among all sequences and reconstruction types. For foraminal stenosis, κ ranged from 0.55 to 0.76 (95% CI 0.32–0.86) for 3D DLRecon, 0.56–0.73 (95% CI 0.35–0.84) for standard-of-care (SOC) 3D, and 0.58–0.71 (95% CI 0.33–0.84) for 2D.

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Deep learning


Deep learning reconstruction


Lumbar spine


Multiplanar reformat


Standard of care


T2-weighted fast spin echo






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We would like to acknowledge Yan Wen (GE Healthcare) and Maggie Fung (GE Healthcare) for their important contributions to the 3D deep learning reconstruction implementation. We would also like to acknowledge Jake Fiore for his assistance with data collection.


The Hospital for Special Surgery receives institutional research support from GE Healthcare.

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Correspondence to Darryl B. Sneag.

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The scientific guarantor of this publication is Darryl B. Sneag.

Conflict of interest

Hospital for Special Surgery receives institutional research support from GE Healthcare. All authors acknowledge that they have no personal investment in the software evaluated in this study.

Statistics and biometry

Joseph Nguyen kindly provided statistical advice for this manuscript. One of the authors has significant statistical expertise.

Informed consent

Written informed consent was waived by the institutional review board.

Ethical approval

Institutional review board approval was obtained.


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Sun, S., Tan, E.T., Mintz, D.N. et al. Evaluation of deep learning reconstructed high-resolution 3D lumbar spine MRI. Eur Radiol 32, 6167–6177 (2022).

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