J Korean Neurosurg Soc.  2019 Jul;62(4):442-449. 10.3340/jkns.2018.0178.

Machine Learning Model to Predict Osteoporotic Spine with Hounsfield Units on Lumbar Computed Tomography

  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Medical Research Institute, Pusan National University Hospital, Busan, Korea. farlateral@hanmail.net


Bone mineral density (BMD) is an important consideration during fusion surgery. Although dual X-ray absorptiometry is considered as the gold standard for assessing BMD, quantitative computed tomography (QCT) provides more accurate data in spine osteoporosis. However, QCT has the disadvantage of additional radiation hazard and cost. The present study was to demonstrate the utility of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm for assessing osteoporosis using Hounsfield units (HU) of preoperative lumbar CT coupling with data of QCT.
We reviewed 70 patients undergoing both QCT and conventional lumbar CT for spine surgery. The T-scores of 198 lumbar vertebra was assessed in QCT and the HU of vertebral body at the same level were measured in conventional CT by the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) system. A multiple regression algorithm was applied to predict the T-score using three independent variables (age, sex, and HU of vertebral body on conventional CT) coupling with T-score of QCT. Next, a logistic regression algorithm was applied to predict osteoporotic or non-osteoporotic vertebra. The Tensor flow and Python were used as the machine learning tools. The Tensor flow user interface developed in our institute was used for easy code generation.
The predictive model with multiple regression algorithm estimated similar T-scores with data of QCT. HU demonstrates the similar results as QCT without the discordance in only one non-osteoporotic vertebra that indicated osteoporosis. From the training set, the predictive model classified the lumbar vertebra into two groups (osteoporotic vs. non-osteoporotic spine) with 88.0% accuracy. In a test set of 40 vertebrae, classification accuracy was 92.5% when the learning rate was 0.0001 (precision, 0.939; recall, 0.969; F1 score, 0.954; area under the curve, 0.900).
This study is a simple machine learning model applicable in the spine research field. The machine learning model can predict the T-score and osteoporotic vertebrae solely by measuring the HU of conventional CT, and this would help spine surgeons not to under-estimate the osteoporotic spine preoperatively. If applied to a bigger data set, we believe the predictive accuracy of our model will further increase. We propose that machine learning is an important modality of the medical research field.


Artificial intelligence; Machine learning; Tensor flow; Osteoporosis; Spine; Hounsfield unit

MeSH Terms

Absorptiometry, Photon
Artificial Intelligence
Bone Density
Logistic Models
Machine Learning*
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