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Chiropractic Research Review

MRI vs. Radiography: Assessing Disc Degeneration and Cervical Instability

The intervertebral disc can be considered the most important component in structure and function of the human spine. It maintains stability of the spine and when it is altered in structure by injury or degeneration, spinal instability may be induced.

This imaging study compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessment of disc degeneration with conventional plain radiographic evaluation of cervical segmental instability.

The subjects consisted of 260 patients (ranging in age from 24 to 76 and averaging 49.6 years) with suspected cervical disorders referred to Changzheng Hospital in Shanghai, China, between 1992 and 1995. All were free of inflammation, neoplasm or fracture in the cervical vertebrae; 29 had a history of cervical sprains. All patients had radiographs performed in lateral flexion and extension

Results indicated that degree of disc degeneration in cervical vertebrae was significantly correlated to age and that for assessment of disc degeneration, MRI was often more sensitive, accurate and noninvasive compared with other methods. This study also confirmed that useful information could be gathered from lateral radiographs taken during maximal flexion and extension to diagnose instability.

Dai L. Disc degeneration and cervical instability: Correlation with magnetic resonance imaging with radiography. Spine, Aug. 15, 1998;23(16), pp1734-38.

Chiropractic Research Review

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