Postoperative spinal CT: What the radiologist needs to know

Nevil Ghodasara, Paul H. Yi, Karen Clark, Elliot K. Fishman, Mazda Farshad, Jan Fritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


During the past 2 decades, the number of spinal surgeries performed annually has been steadily increasing, and these procedures are being accompanied by a growing number of postoperative imaging studies to interpret. CT is accurate for identifying the location and integrity of implants, assessing the success of decompression and intervertebral arthrodesis procedures, and detecting and characterizing related complications. Although postoperative spinal CT is often limited owing to artifacts caused by metallic implants, parameter optimization and advanced metal artifact reduction techniques, including iterative reconstruction and monoenergetic extrapolation methods, can be used to reduce metal artifact severity and improve image quality substantially. Commonly used and recently available spinal implants and prostheses include screws and wires, static and extendable rods, bone grafts and biologic materials, interbody cages, and intervertebral disk prostheses. CT assessment and the spectrum of complications that can occur after spinal surgery and intervertebral arthroplasty include those related to the position and integrity of implants and prostheses, adjacent segment degeneration, collections, fistulas, pseudomeningoceles, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, and surgical site infections. Knowledge of the numerous spinal surgery techniques and devices aids in differentiating expected postoperative findings from complications. The various types of spinal surgery instrumentation and commonly used spinal implants are reviewed. The authors also describe and illustrate normal postoperative spine findings, signs of successful surgery, and the broad spectrum of postoperative complications that can aid radiologists in generating reports that address issues that the surgeon needs to know for optimal patient management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1840-1861
Number of pages22
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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