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Radiographics. 2014 Mar-Apr;34(2):313-29. doi: 10.1148/rg.342125136.

Differentiation of idiopathic spinal cord herniation from CSF-isointense intraspinal extramedullary lesions displacing the cord.

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From the Department of Radiology, Baystate Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, 759 Chestnut Rd, Springfield, MA 01199.


Focal spinal cord displacement can be caused by idiopathic spinal cord herniation (ISCH), in which the cord protrudes through a dural defect into the epidural space, causing cord displacement and tethering. ISCH is uncommon and often is misdiagnosed initially, which results in delayed management. ISCH can be mimicked by space-occupying cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-isointense intraspinal extramedullary lesions, such as epidermoid cysts or teratomas, intradural arachnoid cysts, epidural hematomas or abscesses, cystic nerve sheath tumors, synovial or Tarlov cysts, meningoceles, and pseudomeningoceles. Initial computed tomography (CT) and unenhanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies may depict focal cord displacement and a widened CSF space but often are not sufficient to identify the underlying cause. High-resolution thin-section MR imaging can delineate the exact location of the dural defect and the protrusion of the herniated cord through this defect into the epidural space. At imaging, unimpeded CSF pulsation artifacts seen within a widened CSF space exclude a space-occupying lesion. A filling defect seen at conventional or CT myelography can help confirm a CSF-isointense space-occupying lesion; intravenous contrast agent administration can help exclude a rim-enhancing cystic extramedullary lesion. The clinical presentation usually is nonspecific, but symptom acuity, fever, and trauma can guide the imaging evaluation and help narrow the differential diagnosis. A multimodality imaging approach is essential to differentiate ISCH from space-occupying CSF-isointense intraspinal extramedullary lesions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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