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Neurology. 1993 Dec;43(12):2625-31.

Spinal cord MRI using multi-array coils and fast spin echo. I. Technical aspects and findings in healthy adults.

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  • 1Multiple Sclerosis NMR Research Group, Institute of Neurology, London, United Kingdom.


It is time-consuming to detect intrinsic spinal cord lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS) by MRI using conventional surface coils and T2-weighted spin-echo pulse sequences. Multi-array coils and fast spin-echo pulse sequences permit the generation of high-resolution T2-weighted sagittal images of the whole spinal cord in about 5 minutes. Using these advances, we found an area of high signal within the cord in only 1/45 (2%) healthy subjects aged 18 to 72 years, whereas 26% of those who underwent brain imaging had cerebral white matter abnormalities. Degenerative vertebral column changes, especially in the cervical region, were present in 64% and were associated with cord compression in 11%. Cord cross-sectional areas in mm2, measured from axial gradient-echo images, were usually highly reproducible and showed a significant correlation with the subject's height. We conclude that (1) MRI signal abnormalities within the spinal cord may be more specific for MS than cerebral white matter lesions, especially in subjects over 50 years old; (2) asymptomatic degenerative changes in the vertebral column are common, even in younger adults; (3) measurement of cord cross-sectional area should allow accurate quantitation of the degree of atrophy in MS and other spinal cord diseases; and (4) multi-array coils and fast spin echo represent an important advance in MRI of the spinal cord.

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