ABSTRACTOBJECTIVE:The goal of this study was to determine the prognostic and clinical value of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed within hours after cervical spinal cord injuries in human patients.METHODS:Fifty-five patients with acute cervical vertebral column and spinal cord injuries underwent MRI as part of their initial treatment at the University of Michigan Medical Center. All images were obtained within 21 hours after injury (mean, 7.8 h) and were interpreted by an attending neuroradiologist who was blinded to the clinical status of the patients. Neurological function at presentation and in long-term follow-up examinations was compared with MRI characteristics assessed immediately after the injury.RESULTS:The presence and rostrocaudal length of intra-axial hematoma, the rostrocaudal length of spinal cord edema, the presence of spinal cord compression, and spinal cord compression by extra-axial hematoma were each significantly associated with poor neurological function at presentation and in long-term follow-up examinations. Although the best single predictor of long-term improvement in neurological function was the neurological function at presentation, four MRI characteristics, i.e., the presence of intra-axial hematoma, the extent of spinal cord hematoma, the extent of spinal cord edema, and spinal cord compression by extra-axial hematoma, provided significant additional prognostic information. MRI data demonstrated spinal cord compression for 27 of 55 patients (49%), leading to emergency surgery. Among patients who underwent imaging after restoration of normal vertebral alignment using closed cervical traction, 13 of 26 (50%) underwent emergency surgery for treatment of persistent, MRI-demonstrated, spinal cord compression.CONCLUSION:Emergency MRI after spinal cord injury provides accurate prognostic information regarding neurological function and aids in the diagnosis and treatment of persistent spinal cord compression after vertebral realignment.
Neurosurgery – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 1999
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