Prognostic utility of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in predicting neurological outcomes in patients with acute thoracolumbar spinal cord injury



Utility of MRI for predicting neurological outcomes in acute cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) is well established but its value in thoracolumbar (TL) SCI needs to be evaluated.


Seventy-six patients operated for acute TL spinal injuries between January 2014 and March 2016 were reviewed to obtain demographic details, neurology at admission and at the final follow-up. Patients were divided based on the neurology at presentation into group 1 (ASIA A), group 2 (ASIA B, C, D) and group 3 (normal neurology). Preoperative MRI and CT scans were evaluated to measure parameters like osseus canal compromise, spinal cord compression (SCC), spinal cord swelling, length of cord swelling (LOS), length of edema (LOE) and the presence of hemorrhage. The MRI parameters were compared between the groups for their predictive value of neurology on admission and at the final follow-up.


Of the 38 patients in group 1, six patients recovered by 1 grade, nine patients recovered by 2 grades and there was no recovery in 23 (60.5%) patients. Among group 2 patients, nine (40.9%) out of 22 recovered to ASIA E neurology. On univariate analysis, SCC (P = 0.009), LOS (P = 0.021) and length of edema (P = 0.002) were associated with complete neurological deficit at presentation. However, on multivariate regression analysis only LOE was significant (P = 0.007) in predicting neurology at admission and at follow-up.


Greater the rostrocaudal LOE, worse is the neurology at presentation, and it is associated with poor neurological recovery at follow-up.

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Correspondence to Ajoy Prasad Shetty.

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Naduvanahalli Vivekanandaswamy, A., Kannan, M., Sharma, V. et al. Prognostic utility of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in predicting neurological outcomes in patients with acute thoracolumbar spinal cord injury. Eur Spine J 29, 1227–1235 (2020).

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  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spine trauma
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Outcomes
  • Neurological
  • Recovery