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Evaluation of normal appearing spinal cord by diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracking, fractional anisotropy, and apparent diffusion coefficient measurement in 13 dogs

Marc K Hobert, Veronika M Stein*, Peter Dziallas, Davina C Ludwig and Andrea Tipold

Author Affiliations

Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Buenteweg 9, 30559, Hannover, Germany

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2013, 55:36  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-36

Published: 24 April 2013



Functional magnetic resonance (fMR) imaging offers plenty of new opportunities in the diagnosis of central nervous system diseases. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a technique sensitive to the random motion of water providing information about tissue architecture. We applied DTI to normal appearing spinal cords of 13 dogs of different breeds and body weights in a 3.0 T magnetic resonance (MR) scanner. The aim was to study fiber tracking (FT) patterns by tractography and the variations of the fractional anisotropy (FA) and the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) observed in the spinal cords of dogs with different sizes and at different locations (cervical and thoracolumbar). For that reason we added a DTI sequence to the standard clinical MR protocol. The values of FA and ADC were calculated by means of three regions of interest defined on the cervical or the thoracolumbar spinal cord (ROI 1, 2, and 3).


The shape of the spinal cord fiber tracts was well illustrated following tractography and the exiting nerve roots could be differentiated from the spinal cord fiber tracts. Routine MR scanning times were extended for 8 to 12 min, depending on the size of the field of view (FOV), the slice thickness, and the size of the interslice gaps. In small breed dogs (< 15 kg body weight) the fibers could be tracked over a length of approximately 10 vertebral bodies with scanning times of about 8 min, whereas in large breed dogs (> 25 kg body weight) the traceable fiber length was about 5 vertebral bodies which took 10 to 12 min scanning time. FA and ADC values showed mean values of 0.447 (FA), and 0.560 × 10-3 mm2/s (ADC), respectively without any differences detected with regard to different dog sizes and spinal cord 45 segments examined.


FT is suitable for the graphical depiction of the canine spinal cord and the exiting nerve roots. The FA and ADC values offer an objective measure for evaluation of the spinal cord fiber integrity in dogs.

Canine; Tractography; DTI; FA; ADC