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Eur J Radiol. 2008 Jan;65(1):91-8. Epub 2007 May 25.

Intra- and inter-observer reliability of MRI examination of intervertebral disc abnormalities in patients with cervical myelopathy.

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  • 1Center for Excellence in Surgical Outcomes, Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.



Intervertebral cervical disc herniation (CDH) is a relatively common disorder that can coexist with degenerative changes to worsen cervicogenic myelopathy. Despite the frequent disc abnormalities found in asymptomatic populations, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is considered excellent at detecting cervical spine myelopathy (CSM) associated with disc abnormality. The objective of this study was to investigate the intra- and inter-observer reliability of MRI detection of CSM in subjects who also had co-existing intervertebral disc abnormalities.


Seven experienced radiologists reviewed twice the MRI of 10 patients with clinically and/or imaging determined myelopathy. MRI assessment was performed individually, with and without operational guidelines. A Fleiss Kappa statistic was used to evaluate the intra- and inter-observer agreement.


The study found high intra-observer percent agreement but relatively low Kappa values on selected variables. Inter-observer reliability was also low and neither observation was improved with operational guidelines. We believe that those low values may be associated with the base rate problem of Kappa.


In conclusion, this study demonstrated high intra-observer percent agreement in MR examination for intervertebral disc abnormalities in patients with underlying cervical myelopathy, but differing levels of intra- and inter-observer Kappa agreement among seven radiologists.

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