Magnetic resonance (MR) images of the spine and/or intraoperative spinal ultrasound (US) in 24 patients with spinal infections were reviewed and correlated with clinical and pathologic data to determine their diagnostic value. In disk space infection with osteomyelitis and in retrospinal abscess, MR images showed characteristic findings, whereas in myelitis, MR images demonstrated nonspecific abnormalities. The appearance on MR images of epidural abscesses ranged from clearly identifiable extradural masses with high-intensity signal on spin-echo T2-weighted images to extensive inhomogeneous collections of mixed signal intensities, difficult to distinguish from adjacent meningitis. Myelography with high-resolution computed tomography (CT) and intraoperative spinal US was superior to MR imaging in demonstrating epidural abscesses when there was concomitant meningitis. With intraoperative spinal US, epidural abscesses could be located and their decompression monitored. MR imaging is recommended as the initial screening procedure in spinal infection; in those few patients with nondiagnostic MR images, myelography with high-resolution CT should be the supplementary study. If surgery is planned, intraoperative spinal US should be used.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging