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Recommendations for the use of MRI in spinal cord injury

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will generally give a better view of spinal cord injury, as well as any related edema or hemorrhaging, than a CT scan. However, the use of MRI in spinal cord injury has been inconsistent within acute care. Canadian researchers recently put forth some recommendations and guidelines for acute care settings. Their recommendations are as follows:

  • There is some evidence that MRI should be provided for all patients with acute spinal cord injury.
  • There is good evidence that an MRI should be completed within the acute period following a spinal cord injury (generally 72 hours).
  • There is good evidence that the sagittal T2 MRI sequence should be included in all MRI protocols to predict neurological outcome of spinal cord injury at the acute level.

These guidelines should provide clinicians with a basic framework of when and how spinal cord patients should be scanned using MRI. There is evidence that the use of MRI outside of these recommendations may not be as useful or accurate.

Goulet, B, Bozzo A, Marcoux J, Radhakrisna M, & Pelletier J. The roles of magnetic resonance imaging in the management of acute spinal cord injury. Journal of Neurotrauma. (May 2010).


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