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Chiropractic Research Review

Typical MRI Findings in Chiropractic Patients

Besides plain-film radiography, the most commonly used imaging modality in chiropractic may be magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This method is superior for soft-tissue diagnosis and provides three-dimensional, radiation-free imaging; the high cost and inaccessibility of MRI limit its use, however.

This study determined the prevalence of abnormal findings in chiropractic patients referred for MRI.

Three hundred files from an MRI facility were reviewed for the incidence, type and severity of abnormalities recorded by a chiropractic radiologist at initial examination. A second chiropractic radiologist and a medical radiologist also reviewed films.

The lumbar spine was the region examined most often (43.7%), and 35% of patients had neurological symptoms ("burning, sharp, superficial, well-defined, tingling or numbness") in the extremities near the examined region. Researchers found that "by far the most common abnormal finding on the spinal MRI studies [was] degenerative disc disease and intervertebral disc displacement." Also seen were posterior joint degeneration, thecal effacement, fractures, tendonopathies and meniscal tears. With a 95% confidence interval (CI), thecal effacement in the lumbar spine was linked to neurological symptoms in the lower extremities.

Other more severe, though less common, pathologies observed were avascular necrosis, malignancy and Arnold-Chiari malformation. The authors note that while the majority of MRI findings in this sample of chiropractic patients were of little impact on chiropractic therapy, they were of diagnostic significance.

Marchiori DM, Rowell RM. A survey of magnetic resonance imaging findings in a chiropractic patient population. Journal of the Neuromusculoskeletal System 2002:10(3), pp. 83-88. Subscriptions: (800) 342-0454

Chiropractic Research Review

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