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Although the ovine spine is a useful research model for intervertebral disc pathology and vertebral surgery, there is little peer-reviewed information regarding the MRI anatomy of the ovine spine. To describe the lumbar spine MRI anatomy, 10 lumbar segments of cadaver ewes were imaged by 1.5-Tesla MR. Sagittal and transverse sequences were performed in T1 and T2 weighting (T1W, T2W), and the images were compared to gross anatomic sagittal and transverse sections performed through frozen spines. MRI was able to define most anatomic structures of the ovine spine in a similar way as can be imaged in humans. In both T1W and T2W, the signals of ovine IVDs were similar to those observed in humans. Salient anatomic features were identified: (1) a 2- to 3-mm linear zone of hypersignal was noticed on both extremities of the vertebral body parallel to the vertebral plates in sagittal planes; (2) the tendon of the crura of the diaphragm appeared as a hypointense circular structure between hypaxial muscles and the aorta and caudal vena cava; (3) dorsal and ventral longitudinal ligaments and ligamentum flavum were poorly imaged; (4) no ilio-lumbar ligament was present; (5) the spinal cord ended between S1-S2 level, and the peripheral white matter and central grey matter were easily distinguished on T1W and T2W images. This study provides useful reference images to researchers working with ovine models.
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