STUDY DESIGN: Reliability study. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the applicability and reliability of 9.4T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the assessment of degenerative disc disease compared with 3T MRI. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: MRI is a reliable indicator of biochemical changes in the intervertebral disc (IVD) including hydration status, proteoglycan content, and disc degeneration compared with anatomical and histological studies. High-field 9.4T MRI has been shown to provide superior resolution and anatomical detail. However, it has not been tested against current standard MRI techniques. METHODS: Disc degeneration was initiated in 36 skeletally mature ewes 6 months prior to necropsy via validated surgical IVD injury models using either scalpel injury or drill-bit injury techniques at lumbar spine levels L2/3 and L3/4 with L1/2, L4/5, and L5/6 serving as control discs. All ex vivo IVDs were examined with 9.4T MRI and 3T MRI. All scans were analyzed using the Pfirrmann grading system by four independent observers. Intra- and interobserver reliability was assessed using kappa statistics and Spearman correlation. RESULTS: Inter- and intraobserver agreement for 9.4T MRI was excellent, both at κ 0.91 (P < 0.001). Comparatively, 3T interobserver reliability demonstrated substantial agreement at κ 0.61 (P < 0.001). Complete agreement was obtained in 92.7% to 100% of discs at 9.4T compared with 69.7% to 83.1% at 3T. A difference of one grade or more occurred in 6.7% at 9.4T and 39.3% at 3T. 9.4T MRI scored 97.3% of discs as grade 1 to 2 compared with 71.3% at 3T. 3T MRI tended to over-score the extent of disc degeneration with 28.6% of discs scored as grade 3 or higher compared with 2.7% at 9.4T MRI. CONCLUSION: 9.4T MRI study of IVD degeneration using the Pfirrmann grading system demonstrated excellent inter- and intraobserver reliability. Comparatively, 3T MRI demonstrated a tendency to over score the extent of disc degeneration. This improved reliability of 9.4T MRI holds great potential for its clinical applications.3.