PET/CT imaging of spinal inflammation and microcalcification in patients with low back pain: A pilot study on the quantification by artificial intelligence-based segmentation

Reza Piri*, Amalie H. Nøddeskou-Fink, Oke Gerke, Måns Larsson, Lars Edenbrandt, Olof Enqvist, Poul Flemming Høilund-Carlsen, Mette J. Stochkendahl

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Background: Current imaging modalities are often incapable of identifying nociceptive sources of low back pain (LBP). We aimed to characterize these by means of positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) of the lumbar spine region applying tracers 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and 18F-sodium fluoride (NaF) targeting inflammation and active microcalcification, respectively. Methods: Using artificial intelligence (AI)-based quantification, we compared PET findings in two sex- and age-matched groups, a case group of seven males and five females, mean age 45 ± 14 years, with ongoing LBP and a similar control group of 12 pain-free individuals. PET/CT scans were segmented into three distinct volumes of interest (VOIs): lumbar vertebral bodies, facet joints and intervertebral discs. Maximum, mean and total standardized uptake values (SUVmax, SUVmean and SUVtotal) for FDG and NaF uptake in the 3 VOIs were measured and compared between groups. Holm–Bonferroni correction was applied to adjust for multiple testing. Results: FDG uptake was slightly higher in most locations of the LBP group including higher SUVmean in the intervertebral discs (0.96 ± 0.34 vs. 0.69 ± 0.15). All NaF uptake values were higher in cases, including higher SUVmax in the intervertebral discs (11.63 ± 3.29 vs. 9.45 ± 1.32) and facet joints (14.98 ± 6.55 vs. 10.60 ± 2.97). Conclusion: Observed intergroup differences suggest acute inflammation and microcalcification as possible nociceptive causes of LBP. AI-based quantification of relevant lumbar VOIs in PET/CT scans of LBP patients and controls appears to be feasible. These promising, early findings warrant further investigation and confirmation.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Vol/bind42
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)225-232
ISSN1475-0961
DOI
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This study was partly funded through a PhD scholarship to Reza Piri by the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.

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