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STUDY DESIGN: Investigation of the automation of radiological features from magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the lumbar spine. OBJECTIVE: To automate the process of grading lumbar intervertebral discs and vertebral bodies from MRIs. MR imaging is the most common imaging technique used in investigating low back pain (LBP). Various features of degradation, based on MRIs, are commonly recorded and graded, e.g., Modic change and Pfirrmann grading of intervertebral discs. Consistent scoring and grading is important for developing robust clinical systems and research. Automation facilitates this consistency and reduces the time of radiological analysis considerably and hence the expense. METHODS: 12,018 intervertebral discs, from 2009 patients, were graded by a radiologist and were then used to train: (1) a system to detect and label vertebrae and discs in a given scan, and (2) a convolutional neural network (CNN) model that predicts several radiological gradings. The performance of the model, in terms of class average accuracy, was compared with the intra-observer class average accuracy of the radiologist. RESULTS: The detection system achieved 95.6% accuracy in terms of disc detection and labeling. The model is able to produce predictions of multiple pathological gradings that consistently matched those of the radiologist. The model identifies 'Evidence Hotspots' that are the voxels that most contribute to the degradation scores. CONCLUSIONS: Automation of radiological grading is now on par with human performance. The system can be beneficial in aiding clinical diagnoses in terms of objectivity of gradings and the speed of analysis. It can also draw the attention of a radiologist to regions of degradation. This objectivity and speed is an important stepping stone in the investigation of the relationship between MRIs and clinical diagnoses of back pain in large cohorts. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level 3.

Original publication

DOI

10.1007/s00586-017-4956-3

Type

Journal article

Journal

Eur Spine J

Publication Date

05/2017

Volume

26

Pages

1374 - 1383

Keywords

Automated grading, Deep learning, Disc analysis, Disc bulge, Disc classification, Disc detection, Disc herniation, Modic changes, Pfirrmann grading, Spondylolisthesis, Vertebrae analysis