Theory of MRI contrast in the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc

Alexander C. Wright, Jonathon H. Yoder, Edward J. Vresilovic, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Here we develop a three-dimensional analytic model for MR image contrast of collagen lamellae in the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc of the spine, based on the dependence of the MRI signal on collagen fiber orientation. Materials and methods: High-resolution MRI scans were performed at 1.5 and 7 T on intact whole disc specimens from ovine, bovine, and human spines. An analytic model that approximates the three-dimensional curvature of the disc lamellae was developed to explain inter-lamellar contrast and intensity variations in the annulus. The model is based on the known anisotropic dipolar relaxation of water in tissues with ordered collagen. Results: Simulated MRI data were generated that reproduced many features of the actual MRI data. The calculated inter-lamellar image contrast demonstrated a strong dependence on the collagen fiber angle and on the circumferential location within the annulus. Conclusion: This analytic model may be useful for interpreting MR images of the disc and for predicting experimental conditions that will optimize MR image contrast in the annulus fibrosus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-722
Number of pages12
JournalMagnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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