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Suggested MRI criteria for surgical decompression in acute spinal cord injury. Preliminary observations


The effect of spinal cord compression identified with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), on neurological prognosis, was retrospectively evaluated in 36 patients with acute spinal cord injury. Of the 21 patients without cord compression, 16 had potentially reversible injury (normal spinal cord or cord oedema), all having functional recovery.

Of the 15 patients with cord compression, 3 had operative decompression. In the 12 patients who did not undergo surgery, the degree of recovery was directly related to the magnitude of spinal cord compression, only one of the patients with moderate or marked cord compression having useful motor function at follow up. In contrast, the 3 patients with surgical decompression had at least 2 grades of improvement, all having functional recovery. These findings raise the possibility that MRI may be used to identify a patient group who will benefit from surgical decompression. A numerical index is proposed to prospectively identify patients for surgical decompression, and further studies are underway to evaluate this.


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Silberstein, M., Brown, U., Tress, B. et al. Suggested MRI criteria for surgical decompression in acute spinal cord injury. Preliminary observations. Spinal Cord 30, 704–710 (1992).

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  • MRI
  • spine
  • spinal cord injury
  • quadriplegia
  • surgery

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