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J Neurosurg. 2002 Jul;97(1 Suppl):33-9.

Magnetic resonance imaging correlation in pediatric spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA.



The authors conducted a study to determine correlations between clinical syndromes and early magnetic resonance (MR) imaging-documented findings in children with spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality (SCIWORA).


The authors retrospectively reviewed the records obtained in 20 patients who presented with SCIWORA to the Children's Hospital of Buffalo between 1992 and 1999. Initial neurological syndromes, subsequent hospital course and outcome, and early MR imaging findings obtained using conventional sequences on a 1.5-tesla unit were recorded. Neurological syndromes on presentation were complete (Frankel Grade A) in two patients (10%), severe partial (Frankel Grade C) in one patient (5%), and mild partial (Frankel Grade D) in 17 patients (85%). Partial neurological deficits resolved in 14 (78%) of 18 patients within 72 hours and lasted more than 72 hours in four patients (22%). Magnetic resonance imaging was performed in both patients presenting with complete injuries and in 17 of 18 patients presenting with partial neurological deficits. The studies were obtained within 24 hours in 17 patients (85%). Neuroimaging revealed spinal cord swelling at the cervical level in one of the children with complete injury and cord edema with associated hemorrhage at cervical and thoracic levels in the other. Neural and extraneural elements were shown to be normal in all 17 patients with partial injuries who underwent MR imaging, including in the four patients with partial motor deficits lasting more than 72 hours.


In this series, the predominant neurological presentation of SCIWORA was a mild, partial syndrome that resolved within 72 hours. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed abnormal features only in those patients with complete neurological deficits. These findings suggest that in the acute setting conventional MR imaging sequences may lack the sensitivity to demonstrate neural and extraneural abnormalities associated with partial or temporary neurological deficits of SCIWORA, even when those deficits persist beyond 72 hours.

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