Patient physiology influences the MRI-based vertebral bone quality score



      Osteoporosis is a critical issue affecting postmenopausal women and the aging population. A novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based vertebral bone quality (VBQ) score has been proposed as a method to identify poor bone quality and predict fragility fractures. The diagnostic accuracy of this tool is not well understood.


      To examine the ability of VBQ to predict osteoporosis and osteopenia, its correlation with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), and the influence of patient-specific factors upon the score.


      Retrospective cohort study.


      Patients over the age of 18 with a DEXA scan and noncontrast, T1-weighted MRI of the lumbar spine completed within a 2-year period.


      Area-under-curve (AUC) values of the VBQ score predicting osteopenia and osteoporosis when controlling for patient characteristics.


      Patients with noncontrast, T1-weighted MRIs of the lumbar spine and DEXA scans completed within a 2-year time frame were retrospectively reviewed. Patient demographics and medical risk factors for osteoporosis were identified and compared. VBQ scores were measured by two trained researchers and interrater reliability was calculated. Patients were separated into three groups defined by lowest DEXA T-score: Healthy Bone, Osteopenia, and Osteoporosis. analysis of variance, Kruskal-Wallis test, chi-square, t tests, Mann-Whitney U tests, and multivariate linear regression were performed to examine the relationship between patient characteristics, DEXA t-scores, and VBQ scores. Receiver operating characteristic analysis and AUC values were generated for the prediction of osteopenia and osteoporosis.


      A total of 156 patients were included for analysis. Sufficient inter-rater reliability was determined for VBQ measures (intraclass correlation coefficient: 0.81). Most patients were female (83%), postmenopausal (81%), and had hyperlipidemia (64%). Patients with hyperlipidemia and healthy bone density by DEXA had elevated baseline VBQ scores (p<.001) reflective of values seen in osteopenia and osteoporosis. The AUC of the VBQ score predicting osteopenia and osteoporosis changed to be more concordant with DEXA results after controlling for hyperlipidemia (AUC=0.72, 0.70 vs. AUC=0.88, 0.89; p<.001). Sub-analysis of hyperlipidemia subtypes revealed that elevated high-density lipoprotein is associated with elevated VBQ scores.


      Hyperlipidemia increased the MRI-based VBQ score in our healthy bone population. The high signal intensities resembled values seen in osteopenia and osteoporosis, suggesting that physiologic variables which impact bone composition may influence the VBQ score. Specifically, elevated high-density lipoprotein may contribute to this. The microarchitectural changes and the clinical implications of these factors need further exploration.


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