MRI of the acute spine

Author(s): Dr Laura Pendower, Dr David Doig, Sophia Hill, Dr Asif Mazumder

Hospital: Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals

Reference: RAD Magazine, 44, 516, 14


There are many conditions that can present with rapid onset of signs and symptoms suggestive of acute injury of the spine. A large proportion of these patients present following traumatic injury to the spine and this will therefore be the main focus of this article. More insidious processes can also present with spinal cord compressive symptoms, for example malignancy or infection, and these will also be considered briefly.

Spinal cord injury can be a source of much concern, particularly when it manifests as dramatic neurological symptoms such as paralysis. The gold standard method of assessment of the acute spine is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), although this is less available, more time-consuming and more resource intensive for the immobilised or ventilated patient than computed tomography (CT), which remains the initial investigation of choice for traumatic injury.

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