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Towards in vitro MRI based analysis of spinal cord injury Ming, Kevin

Abstract

A novel approach for the analysis of spinal cord deformation based on a combined technique of non-invasive imaging and medical image processing is presented. A sopposed to traditional approaches where animal spinal cords are exposed and directly subjected to mechanical impact in order to be examined, this approach can be used to quantify deformities of the spinal cord in vivo, so that deformations — specifically those of myelopathy-related sustained compression — of the spinal cord can be computed in its original physiological environment. This, then, allows for a more accurate understanding of spinal cord deformations and injuries. Images of rat spinal cord deformations, acquired using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), were analyzed using a combination of various image processing methods, including image segmentation, a versor-based rigid registration technique, and a B-spline-based non-rigid registration technique. To verify the validity and assess the accuracy of this approach, several validation schemes were implemented to compare the deformation fields computed by the proposed algorithm against known deformation fields. First, validation was performed on a synthetically-generated spinal cord model data warped using synthetic deformations; error levels achieved were consistently below 6% with respect to cord width, even for large degrees of deformation up to half of the dorsal-ventral width of the cord (50% deflection). Then, accuracy was established using in vivo rat spinal cord images warped using those same synthetic deformations; error levels achieved were also consistently below 6% with respect to cord width, in this case for large degrees of deformation up to the entire dorsal-ventral width of the cord (100% deflection). Finally, the accuracy was assessed using data from the Visible Human Project (VHP) warped using simulated deformations obtained from finite element (FE) analysis of the spinal cord; error levels achieved were as low as 3.9% with respect to cord width. This in vivo, non-invasive semi-automated analysis tool provides a new framework through which the causes, mechanisms, and tolerance parameters of myelopathy-related sustained spinal cord compression, as well as the measures used in neuroprotection and regeneration of spinal cord tissue, can be prospectively derived in a manner that ensures the bio-fidelity of the cord.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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