Pierre Pesesse, Marc Vanderthommen, Nancy Durieux, Mikhail Zubkov, Christophe Demoulin

Clinical Value and Reliability of Quantitative Assessments of Lumbosacral Nerve Root Using Diffusion Tensor and Diffusion Weighted MR Imaging: A Systematic Review

  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and imaging

BackgroundLumbosacral radicular pain diagnosis remains challenging. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) have potential to quantitatively evaluate symptomatic nerve root, which may facilitate diagnosis.PurposeTo determine the ability of DTI and DWI metrics, namely fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), to discriminate between healthy and symptomatic lumbosacral nerve roots, to evaluate the association between FA and ADC values and patient symptoms, and to determine FA and ADC reliability.Study TypeSystematic review.SubjectsEight hundred twelve patients with radicular pain with or without radiculopathy caused by musculoskeletal‐related compression or inflammation of a single, unilateral lumbosacral nerve root and 244 healthy controls from 29 studies.Field Strength/SequenceDiffusion weighted echo planar imaging sequence at 1.5 T or 3 T.AssessmentAn extensive systematic review of the literature was conducted in Embase, Scopus, and Medline databases. FA and ADC values in symptomatic and contralateral lumbosacral nerve roots were extracted and summarized, together with intra‐ and inter‐rater agreements. Where available, associations between DWI or DTI parameters and patient symptoms or symptom duration were extracted.Statistical TestsThe main results of the included studies are summarized. No additional statistical analyses were performed.ResultsThe DTI studies systematically found significant differences in FA values between the symptomatic and contralateral lumbosacral nerve root of patients suffering from radicular pain with or without radiculopathy. In contrast, identification of the symptomatic nerve root with ADC values was inconsistent for both DTI and DWI studies. FA values were moderately to strongly correlated with several symptoms (eg, disability, nerve dysfunction, and symptom duration). The inter‐ and intra‐rater reliability of DTI parameters were moderate to excellent. The methodological quality of included studies was very heterogeneous.Data ConclusionThis systematic review showed that DTI was a reliable and discriminative imaging technique for the assessment of symptomatic lumbosacral nerve root, which more consistently identified the symptomatic nerve root than DWI. Further studies of high quality are needed to confirm these results.Evidence LevelN/ATechnical EfficacyStage 2

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