Acute Cervical Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury: MR Imaging Findings Correlated with Neurologic Outcome—Prospective Study with 100 Consecutive Patients

Purpose: To prospectively evaluate whether quantitative and qualitative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging assessments after spinal cord injury (SCI) correlate with patient neurologic status and are predictive of outcome at long-term follow-up.

Materials and Methods: The study included 100 patients (79 male, 21 female; mean age, 45 years; age range, 17–96 years) with traumatic cervical SCI. Ethics committee approval and informed consent were obtained. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor score was used as the outcome measure at admission and follow-up. The ASIA impairment scale was used to classify patients according to injury severity. Three quantitative (maximum spinal cord compression [MSCC], maximum canal compromise [MCC], and lesion length) and six qualitative (intramedullary hemorrhage, edema, cord swelling, soft-tissue injury [STI], canal stenosis, and disk herniation) imaging parameters were studied. Data were analyzed by using the Fisher exact test, the Mantel-Haenszel χ2 test, analysis of variance, analysis of covariance, and stepwise multivariable linear regression.

Results: Patients with complete motor and sensory SCIs had more substantial MCC (P = .005), MSCC (P = .002), and lesion length (P = .005) than did patients with incomplete SCIs and those with no SCIs. Patients with complete SCIs also had higher frequencies of hemorrhage (P < .001), edema (P < .001), cord swelling (P = .001), stenosis (P = .01), and STI (P = .001). MCC (P = .012), MSCC (P = .014), and cord swelling (P < .001) correlated with baseline ASIA motor scores. MSCC (P = .028), hemorrhage (P < .001), and cord swelling (P = .029) were predictive of the neurologic outcome at follow-up. Hemorrhage (P < .001) and cord swelling (P = .002) correlated significantly with follow-up ASIA score after controlling for the baseline neurologic assessment.

Conclusion: MSCC, spinal cord hemorrhage, and cord swelling are associated with a poor prognosis for neurologic recovery. Extent of MSCC is more reliable than presence of canal stenosis for predicting the neurologic outcome after SCI.

© RSNA, 2007

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Article History

Published in print: 2007