Architectural configuration and microstructural properties of the sacral plexus: A diffusion tensor MRI and fiber tractography study

P.K.N. van der Jagt, P. Dik, M. Froeling, T.C. Kwee, A.J. Nievelstein, Bernard ten Haken, A. Leemans

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57 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to investigate microstructural properties of the central nervous system with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has been shown in many studies. More recently, DTI is being applied outside the brain showing promising results, for instance, for investigating muscle tissue. In this work, we demonstrate the feasibility of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and fiber tractography to study the nerves of the sacral plexus in humans in vivo and to assess the architectural configuration and microstructural properties of these peripheral nerves. For this research goal we optimized the acquisition parameters of a DTI sequence and acquired data from 10 healthy adults and one 12-year patient having spina bifida and neurogenic bladder dysfunction. For the healthy volunteers, we estimated the fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean (MD), axial (AD), and radial diffusivities (RD) of the sacral plexus nerves which may serve as a baseline for future studies. We demonstrated that tractography of the sacral plexus on a 3 Tesla MR scanner is feasible, giving 3D insight in the general anatomy and organization of the nerves L4 to S3. In addition, branches to the pudendal nerve were also found in 4 volunteers. There were no significant differences in any of the estimated diffusion measures between the right and left sided nerves or between the nerves L4 to S3 on an intra-subject basis. Furthermore, clinical feasibility of DTI and tractography in a child having spina bifida and neurogenic bladder dysfunction is demonstrated. The architectural configuration of the child's sacral plexus was comparable with the healthy volunteers and no significant disrupted nerve fibers were observed. However, there are strong indications that abnormal diffusion characteristics are present at the level of the neural tube defect due to incomplete segments of the nerves that are close to the vertebrae. These findings are encouraging for using DTI as a means to investigate changes in microstructural properties of the nerves of the sacral plexus. Moreover, this new methodology may provide a new avenue to a better analysis and diagnosis of neurogenic bladder dysfunctions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1792-1799
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • METIS-292564
  • IR-83070


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