Post-operative imaging of the spine

Author(s): Dr Sajid Butt, Dr Artur Wojciechowski

Hospital: Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, St George's University Hospital

Reference: RAD Magazine, 41, 484, 20-22


Spinal surgery is performed to treat symptomatic patients with spinal pathology, mainly to decompress spinal cord and nerve roots, to provide structural stability to the spinal column and to resect tumours. Given the complex shape and mechanics of the spinal column and close relationship of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs with neuro-vascular and other important structures, these procedures pose relatively high risk to patients.

Post-operative assessment must take into account the following aspects:

• extent of decompression procedure
• possible persistent or recurrent compression of the neural elements
• alignment of spinal column
• to rule out post-operative complications.

Usually a combination of radiographs, CT and MR studies are performed to answer these questions. MR is preferred because of its high sensitivity and specificity and superb soft tissue delineation.

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