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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1997 Jun;168(6):1481-6.

Injury of the posterior ligament complex in patients with acute spinal trauma: evaluation by MR imaging.

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University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033, USA.



We undertook this study to use MR imaging to determine the frequency of injury to the posterior ligament complex of the thoracolumbar spine in patients who have undergone acute thoracolumbar trauma.


Sixty-eight patients with varying severity of thoracolumbar trauma were examined prospectively. The majority of injuries were related to motor vehicle accidents. The second most common cause was falls. Patients were examined with plain radiography and MR imaging. In addition to conventional MR imaging sequences consisting of T1-weighted and fast spin-echo T2-weighted sagittal and axial images, a fat-suppressed T2-weighted sagittal sequence was performed. The findings were correlated with surgery in six cases and with follow-up clinical examination that included physical examination and conventional anteroposterior and lateral radiographs.


Posterior ligament complex injury was detected in 53% (n = 36) of all patients. Such injury was most common in patients with flexion-distraction (n = 15) and patients with dislocation fracture (n = 4). Of the patients with dislocation fracture, all had posterior ligament complex injury. Of the 24 patients with burst fractures, posterior ligament complex tear occurred in 42% (n = 10). Of the 23 patients with compression fractures, 26% (n = 6) had posterior ligament complex tear. Injury to the interspinous ligaments occurred with decreasing frequency in patients with injury to the supraspinous ligament, flaval ligaments, posterior longitudinal ligament, and anterior longitudinal ligament. Surgical findings correlated with MR imaging in all six patients who underwent surgery.


Injury to the posterior ligament complex, which is often encountered in patients with burst and compression fractures, can be reliably revealed by MR imaging.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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