589. 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.

Piri R, Nøddeskou-Fink AH, Gerke O, Larsson M, Edenbrandt L, Enqvist O, Høilund-Carlsen PF, Stochkendahl MJ.
Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging. 2022 Jul;42(4):225-232 [Epub 2022 Mar 23]


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 18 F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and 18 F-sodium fluoride (NaF) targeting inflammation and active microcalcification, respectively.

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.

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).

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.

Fluorodeoxyglucose; low back pain; lumbar vertebrae; positron emission tomography; sodium fluoride.

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