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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Proton NMR studies of human lumbar intervertebral discs Rind, Teresa


Problems with the low back resulting from diseases of the lumbar disc account for much human suffering and medical expense. Through early identification of changes in the disc, Magnetic Resonance Imaging offers a potential method for recognition of those at risk of low back trouble. An understanding of the chemical and structural basis of the MR image will therefore be of great help in understanding the degenerative mechanism itself. With this in mind, NMR studies of human intervertebral discs were performed to extract data that could be correlated with different stages of degeneration. In vitro samples of anulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus of grades II and IV discs were examined. The Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) pulse sequence was used to obtain T₂ relaxation data, which were analysed with a non-negative least squares algorithm and presented as a continuous spectrum of exponentials. An inversion-recovery sequence was used to obtain T₁ data which were analysed with the same algorithm, then presented as a discrete exponential spectrum. The same procedures were used to produce relaxation times from samples of isolated disc collagen and proteoglycan. Also, T₂ relaxation data were obtained with a twelve-echo CPMG imaging sequence from healthy volunteers, and these data analysed with the same procedure used for in vitro data. In vivo and in vitro results were compared and found to agree in terms of the T₂ relaxation values. Most change between grades occurred in the nucleus, where both T₁ and T₂ values decreased from grade II to grade IV. The results of the proteoglycan and collagen studies support the theory that structure, not chemical composition, is responsible for the observed changes in relaxation times. Based on estimates of the percentages of protons in the nucleus due to water, proteoglycan and collagen, tentative assignments were made to the components of the T₂ spectra for grades II and IV nucleus, and these were supported by the results of all parts of the study.

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