Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Spinal Cord Neural Anatomy in Rats Examined by In Vivo Magnetic Resonance Microscopy
  1. Helene Benveniste, M.D., Ph.D.,
  2. Hui Qui, M.S.,
  3. Laurence W. Hedlund, Ph.D.,
  4. Francine D’Ercole, M.D. and
  5. G. Allan Johnson, Ph.D.
  1. From the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
  1. Reprint requests: Helene Benveniste, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Box 3094, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, 27710.


Background and Objectives Magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) is a technique that is worthwhile for anesthesiologists because it allows spinal cord and plexus anatomy to be visualized three dimensionally and followed over time in the same animal. For example, the long-term effect of indwelling intrathecal or plexus catheters can be studied in situ, and convective and diffusive forces within intrathecal, epidural, or nerve sheath spaces can be investigated. Further, diffusion-weighted MRM, which measures an “apparent diffusion coefficient” (ADC), can be used to track the presence of ischemia, hypoperfusion, or cytotoxic edema. This study investigates problems associated with the use of in vivo MRM for spinal cord and peripheral nerve studies in the rat.

Methods Twenty-one anesthetized female Fisher CDF rats were used. Group 1 (n = 7) was used for anatomic three-dimensional studies. Groups 2 (n = 4), 3 (n = 4), and 4 (n = 6) were used for measurements of the ADC. Group 2 served as controls, group 3 received lumbar intrathecal catheters, and group 4 received cervical intrathecal catheters.

Results Cervical spine, lumbar spine, and spinal nerves and ganglia were accurately visualized with MRM. As a rule, spinal cord gray and white matter were better demonstrated using diffusion-weighted proton stains. By contrast, T2-weighted proton staining superiorly demonstrated structures surrounding the spinal cord. In groups 3 and 4, indwelling intrathecal catheters did not affect the spinal cord ADC, indicating normal blood flow and no cytotoxic edema. Contrast studies revealed nonhomogeneous distribution of contrast predominately in the lateral and ventral intrathecal space.

Conclusions Threedimensional diffusion-weighted MRM displays cervical and lumbar spine anatomy accurately in vivo. Apparent diffusion coefficients measurements are feasible in rat cervical spinal cord with intrathecal catheters. Spinal cord ADCs are unaffected by intrathecal catheters, indicating normal spinal cord perfusion.

  • diffusion
  • anatomy
  • intrathecal contrast
  • magnetic resonance microscopy
  • spinal catheters
  • rat

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • All work was performed at the Center for In Vivo Microscopy, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina. Research was supported by FAER/American Society of Regional Anesthesia Anesthesiology New Investigator Award 1997 to Dr. Benveniste from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research and NIH NCRR Grant #P41 05959. Part of this work was presented on April 11, 1997 at the ASRA 22nd Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia.