Acute cervical spine injuries: Prospective MR imaging assessment at a level 1 trauma center

Richard W. Katzberg, Philip F. Benedetti, Christiana M. Drake, Marija Ivanovic, Richard A. Levine, Carol S. Beatty, William R. Nemzek, Russell A. McFall, Francesca K. Ontell, Dorene M. Bishop, Virginia C. Poirier, Brian W. Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To determine the weighted average sensitivity of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in the prospective detection of acute neck injury and to compare these findings with those of a comprehensive conventional radiographic assessment. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Conventional radiography and MR imaging were performed in 199 patients presenting to a level 1 trauma center with suspected cervical spine injury. Weighted sensitivities and specificities were calculated, and a weighted average across eight vertebral levels from C1 to T1 was formed. Fourteen parameters indicative of acute injury were tabulated. RESULTS: Fifty-eight patients had 172 acute cervical injuries. MR imaging depicted 136 (79%) acute abnormalities and conventional radiography depicted 39 (23%). For assessment of acute fractures, MR images (weighted average sensitivity, 43%; CI: 21%, 66%) were comparable to conventional radiographs (weighted average sensitivity, 48%; CI: 30%, 65%). MR imaging was superior to conventional radiography in the evaluation of pre- or paravertebral hemorrhage or edema, anterior or posterior longitudinal ligament injury, traumatic disk herniation, cord edema, and cord compression. Cord injuries were associated with cervical spine spondylosis (P < .05), acute fracture (P < .001), and canal stenosis (P < .001). CONCLUSION: MR imaging is more accurate than radiography in the detection of a wide spectrum of neck injuries, and further study is warranted of its potential effect on medical decision making, clinical outcome, and cost-effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-212
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Magnetic resonance (MR), comparative studies
  • Spinal cord, injuries
  • Spine, CT
  • Spine, MR
  • Spine, injuries
  • Spine, radiography
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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