Quantitative spinal cord (SC) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) presents many challenges, including a lack of standardized imaging protocols. Here we present a prospectively harmonized quantitative MRI protocol, which we refer to as the spine generic protocol, for users of 3T MRI systems from the three main manufacturers: GE, Philips and Siemens. The protocol provides guidance for assessing SC macrostructural and microstructural integrity: T1-weighted and T2-weighted imaging for SC cross-sectional area computation, multi-echo gradient echo for gray matter cross-sectional area, and magnetization transfer and diffusion weighted imaging for assessing white matter microstructure. In a companion paper from the same authors, the spine generic protocol was used to acquire data across 42 centers in 260 healthy subjects. The key details of the spine generic protocol are also available in an open-access document that can be found at https://github.com/spine-generic/protocols. The protocol will serve as a starting point for researchers and clinicians implementing new SC imaging initiatives so that, in the future, inclusion of the SC in neuroimaging protocols will be more common. The protocol could be implemented by any trained MR technician or by a researcher/clinician familiar with MRI acquisition.
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.