The Central Dot Sign: A Specific Post-gadolinium Enhancement Feature of Intramedullary Spinal Cord Metastases

Ajay A. Madhavan, Felix E. Diehn, Jeffrey B. Rykken, John T. Wald, Chris P. Wood, Kara M. Schwartz, Timothy J. Kaufmann, Christopher H. Hunt, Dong Kun Kim, Laurence J. Eckel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Peripheral enhancement characteristics on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), namely the rim and flame signs, are specific for intramedullary spinal cord metastases (ISCM) compared to primary cord masses. The study compared the frequency of a novel finding—the central dot sign—in ISCMs versus primary intramedullary masses. Methods: In this study 45 patients with 64 ISCMs and 64 control patients with 64 primary intramedullary cord masses were investigated and 2 radiologists blinded to lesion type independently evaluated MR images for the presence of a central dot sign: a punctate focus of enhancement in/near the center of an enhancing intramedullary mass. The frequency of this sign in the two patient groups was compared. Results: A total of 63 enhancing ISCMs in 44 patients and 54 enhancing primary cord masses in 54 patients were included. The central dot sign was identified in 6% (4/63) of enhancing ISCMs in 9% (4/44) of patients and in none (0/54) of the enhancing primary cord masses (p = 0.038, per patient). The specificity for diagnosing ISCMs among spinal cord masses was 100%. The central dot sign was present in the axial plane only in two ISCMs and in the axial and sagittal planes in two ISCMs. The two ISCMs harboring the central dot sign also demonstrated both the previously described rim and flame signs, and two also demonstrated the rim sign alone. Conclusion: The central dot sign is not sensitive but highly specific for ISCMs compared to primary spinal cord masses. The rim and/or flame signs may or may not be concurrently present in ISCMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Neuroradiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Flame sign
  • Intramedullary enhancement
  • Intramedullary lesion
  • Rim sign
  • Spinal cord lesion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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