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Eur J Radiol. 2011 Dec;80(3):780-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2010.09.031. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Comparison of MRI sequences for evaluation of multiple sclerosis of the cervical spinal cord at 3 T.

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  • 1Department of Medical Imaging, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Rd, Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia.



Debate remains regarding the utility of the traditional STIR (short inversion time recovery) sequence in aiding MRI diagnosis of spinal cord lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and this sequence is not included in the current imaging guidelines. A recent study proposed a T1 weighted STIR as a superior alternative to the traditional STIR and T2 fast spin echo (FSE). Thus, the aim of this study was to compare the sensitivity of T2, standard STIR and T1 weighted STIR sequences in the evaluation of MS plaques on our 3 T system.


A retrospective analysis of patients with multiple sclerosis who presented to our institution over a period of 5 months and who had cervical cord lesions was undertaken. Patients had been examined with our institutional protocol which included T2 FSE, STIR and the recommended T1 STIR. Quantitative analysis of the lesions versus background cord using sample T-tests was performed for each sequence, and comparative analysis of the lesion contrast:background cord ratios of the 3 sequences (using two-way ANOVA tests) was performed.


The T2 sequence was not as sensitive in detecting lesions versus the traditional STIR and T1 weighted STIR, with 10% of lesions not detected using statistical analysis (p<0.05). The traditional STIR also demonstrated greater contrast ratios than the T2 sequence (p<0.05) suggesting increased sensitivity. However, the T1 STIR demonstrated even greater contrast ratios than both the traditional STIR and T2 sequences (p<0.05).


This study confirms earlier findings of the traditional STIRs increased sensitivity versus the T2 sequence. However, the new "T1 weighted STIR" appears to be even more sensitive than both these sequences showing potential promise as an alternative method to monitor demyelinating plaques of MS.

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