Differentiation of inflammatory from degenerative changes in the sacroiliac joints by machine learning supported texture analysis

Felix H. Kepp, Florian A. Huber, Moritz C. Wurnig, Manoj Mannil, Malwina Kaniewska, Riccardo Guglielmi, Filippo Del Grande, Roman Guggenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To compare the diagnostic performance of texture analysis (TA) against visual qualitative assessment in the differentiation of spondyloarthritis (SpA) from degenerative changes in the sacroiliac joints (SIJ). Method: Ninety patients referred for suspected inflammatory lower back pain from the rheumatology department were retrospectively included at our university hospital institution. MRI at 3 T of the lumbar spine and SIJ was performed with oblique coronal T1-weighted (w), fluid-sensitive fat-saturated (fs) TIRM and fsT1w intravenously contrast-enhanced (CE) images. Subjects were divided into three age- and gender-matched groups (30 each) based on definite clinical diagnosis serving as clinical reference standard with either degenerative, inflammatory (SpA) or no changes of the SIJ. SIJ were rated qualitatively by two independent radiologists and quantitatively by region-of-interest-based TA with 304 features subjected to machine learning logistic regression with randomized ten-fold selection of training and validation data. Qualitative and quantitative results were evaluated for diagnostic performance and compared against clinical reference standard. Results: Agreement of radiologist's diagnose with clinical reference was fair for both readers (κ = 0.32 and 0.44). ROC statistics revealed significant outperformance of TA compared to qualitative ratings for differentiation of SpA from remainder (AUC = 0.89 vs. 0.75), SpA from degenerative (AUC = 0.91 vs. 0.67) and TIRM-positive SpA (i.e. with bone marrow edema) from remainder cases (AUC = 0.95 vs. 0.76). T1w-CE images were the most important discriminator for detection of SpA. Conclusions: TA is superior to qualitative assessment for the differentiation of inflammatory from degenerative changes of the SIJ. Intravenous CE-images increase diagnostic yield in quantitative TA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109755
JournalEuropean Journal of Radiology
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Computer-assisted image analysis
  • Lower back pain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Sacroiliac joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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