European Spine Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 2840–2846 | Cite as

Axial loading during MRI reveals deviant characteristics within posterior IVD regions between low back pain patients and controls

  • H. HebelkaEmail author
  • L. Torén
  • K. Lagerstrand
  • H. Brisby
Original Article



To investigate differences in functional intervertebral disk (IVD) characteristics between low back pain (LBP) patients and controls using T2-mapping with axial loading during MRI (alMRI).


In total, 120 IVDs in 24 LBP patients (mean age 39 years, range 25–69) were examined with T2-mapping without loading of the spine (uMRI) and with alMRI (DynaWell® loading device) and compared with 60 IVDs in 12 controls (mean age 38 years, range 25–63). The IVD T2-value was acquired after 20-min loading in five regions of interests (ROI), ROI1-5 from anterior to posterior. T2-values were compared between loading states and cohorts with adjustment for Pfirrmann grade.


In LBP patients, mean T2-value of the entire IVD was 64 ms for uMRI and 66 ms for alMRI (p = 0.03) and, in controls, 65 ms and 65 ms (p = 0.5). Load-induced T2-differences (alMRI–uMRI) were seen in all ROIs in both patients (0.001 > p < 0.005) and controls (0.0001 > p < 0.03). In patients, alMRI induced an increase in T2-value for ROI1-3 (23%, 18% and 5%) and a decrease for ROI4 (3%) and ROI5 (24%). More pronounced load-induced decrease was detected in ROI4 in controls (9%/p = 0.03), while a higher absolute T2-value was found for ROI5 during alMRI in patients (38 ms) compared to controls (33 ms) (p = 0.04).


The alMRI-induced differences in T2-value in ROI4 and ROI5 between patients and controls most probably indicate biomechanical impairment in the posterior IVD regions. Hence, alMRI combined with T2-mapping offers an objective and clinical feasible tool for biomechanical IVD characterization that may deepen the knowledge regarding how LBP is related to altered IVD matrix composition.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.


Intervertebral disk T2-mapping Low back pain MRI Axial loading during MRI 



The authors acknowledge support from C4I center, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Konrad Helfrid Johansson’s Foundation, Felix Neubergh Foundation, ALF Grant Västra Götaland Region and Grant AFA Insurance Company.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Oral and written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

586_2018_5774_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (237 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 236 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologySahlgrenska University HospitalGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department of OrthopaedicsSahlgrenska University HospitalGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Department of Medical Physics and TechniquesSahlgrenska University HospitalGothenburgSweden
  4. 4.Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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