Degenerative narrowing of the cervical spine neural foramina: Evaluation with high-resolution 3DFT gradient-echo MR imaging

D. M. Yousem, S. W. Atlas, H. I. Goldberg, R. I. Grossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Conventional two-dimensional Fourier transform (2DFT) MR evaluation of osteophytic disease of the cervical neural foramina is limited by section thickness, signal-to-noise problems, and CSF flow artifacts. We evaluated the role of thin-section, high-resolution, gradient-refocused three-dimensional Fourier transform (3DFT) MR imaging in assessing degenerative foraminal narrowing in the cervical spine. Contiguous 1.5-mm axial 3DFT gradient-recalled acquisition in the steady state MR images of 120 neural foramina at 60 disk levels were evaluated blindly and independently by three neuroradiologists. High-resolution axial CT was used as the gold standard in all patients. 3DFT MR was found to agree with CT in the detection of neural foraminal narrowing and in the determination of the cause of the narrowing in approximately 76% of neural foramina. The accuracy for the assessment of neural foraminal narrowing on 3DFT MR ranged from 73% to 82% when a 5°-flip-angle, high-intensity CSF technique was used. When using the 30°-flip-angle, low-intensity CSF technique, the accuracy ranged from 66% to 86%. When the cause of narrowing was evaluated, the 5° and 30° studies agreed with CT in 70-92% and 48-88% of the levels, respectively. When lesions were missed on MR, it was usually because of osteophytic disease. The interobserver concordance of MR and CT interpretations was higher for detecting the presence of narrowing than its cause. This MR technique is a useful method in the evaluation of foraminal stenosis since contrast between disk, cord, osteophyte, and CSF is high without the need for intrathecal injections. The wide range of interpreter accuracy and interobserver correlation is attributed to a steep learning curve for evaluating the MR images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1236
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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