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Tracking the neurodegenerative gradient after spinal cord injury


Azzarito, Michela; Seif, Maryam; Kyathanahally, Sreenath; Curt, Armin; Freund, Patrick (2020). Tracking the neurodegenerative gradient after spinal cord injury. NeuroImage: Clinical, 26:102221.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To quantify neurodegenerative changes along the cervical spinal cord rostral to a spinal cord injury (SCI) by means of quantitative MRI (qMRI) and to determine its relationship with clinical impairment.
METHODS: Thirty chronic SCI patients (15 tetraplegics and 15 paraplegics) and 23 healthy controls underwent a high-resolution T1-weighted and myelin-sensitive magnetization transfer (MT) MRI. We assessed macro- and microstructural changes along the cervical cord from levels C1 to C4, calculating cross-sectional spinal cord area, its anterior-posterior and left-right width and myelin content (i.e. MT). Regression analysis determined associations between qMRI parameters and clinical impairment.
RESULTS: In SCI patients, cord area decreased by 2.67 mm$^{2}$ (p = 0.004) and left-right width decreased by 0.35 mm (p = 0.002) per cervical cord level in the caudal direction when compared to the healthy controls. This gradient of neurodegeneration was greater in tetraplegic than paraplegics in the cross-sectional cervical cord area (by 3.28 mm$^{2}$, p = 0.011), left-right width (by 0.36 mm, p = 0.03), and mean cord MT (by 0.13%, p = 0.04), but independant of lesion severity (p > 0.05). Higher lesion level was associated with greater magnitudes of neurodegeneration. Greater loss in myelin content in the dorsal columns and spinothalamic tract was associated with worse light touch (p = 0.016) and pin prick score (p = 0.024), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: A gradient of neurodegeneration is evident in the cervical cord remote from a SCI. Tract-specific associations with appropriate clinical outcomes highlight that remote neurodegenerative changes are clinically eloquent. Monitoring the neurodegenerative gradient could be used to track treatment effects of regenerative and neuroprotective agents, both in trials targeting cervical and thoracic SCI patients.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To quantify neurodegenerative changes along the cervical spinal cord rostral to a spinal cord injury (SCI) by means of quantitative MRI (qMRI) and to determine its relationship with clinical impairment.
METHODS: Thirty chronic SCI patients (15 tetraplegics and 15 paraplegics) and 23 healthy controls underwent a high-resolution T1-weighted and myelin-sensitive magnetization transfer (MT) MRI. We assessed macro- and microstructural changes along the cervical cord from levels C1 to C4, calculating cross-sectional spinal cord area, its anterior-posterior and left-right width and myelin content (i.e. MT). Regression analysis determined associations between qMRI parameters and clinical impairment.
RESULTS: In SCI patients, cord area decreased by 2.67 mm$^{2}$ (p = 0.004) and left-right width decreased by 0.35 mm (p = 0.002) per cervical cord level in the caudal direction when compared to the healthy controls. This gradient of neurodegeneration was greater in tetraplegic than paraplegics in the cross-sectional cervical cord area (by 3.28 mm$^{2}$, p = 0.011), left-right width (by 0.36 mm, p = 0.03), and mean cord MT (by 0.13%, p = 0.04), but independant of lesion severity (p > 0.05). Higher lesion level was associated with greater magnitudes of neurodegeneration. Greater loss in myelin content in the dorsal columns and spinothalamic tract was associated with worse light touch (p = 0.016) and pin prick score (p = 0.024), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: A gradient of neurodegeneration is evident in the cervical cord remote from a SCI. Tract-specific associations with appropriate clinical outcomes highlight that remote neurodegenerative changes are clinically eloquent. Monitoring the neurodegenerative gradient could be used to track treatment effects of regenerative and neuroprotective agents, both in trials targeting cervical and thoracic SCI patients.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging
Life Sciences > Neurology
Health Sciences > Neurology (clinical)
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:25 February 2020
Deposited On:07 Aug 2020 14:38
Last Modified:08 Aug 2020 20:00
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2213-1582
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102221
PubMed ID:32145681

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