Reproducibility of magnetic resonance imaging measurements of spinal cord atrophy: the role of quality assurance

Magn Reson Imaging. 1999 Jun;17(5):773-6. doi: 10.1016/s0730-725x(99)00005-3.


A sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method to measure spinal cord cross-sectional area with the potential to monitor disease progression has recently been developed. As changes in cord area due to disease are usually small, assessment of the reliability of the methodology is essential in serial studies of spinal cord atrophy. The aim of this study was to institute and evaluate a protocol of quality assurance to determine long-term reproducibility of serial studies. Serial MRI of the spinal cord was carried out in five healthy volunteer controls over 1 year. Cross-sectional spinal cord areas were measured in a total of 46 scans. The mean coefficient of variation of all subjects over one year was 1.35%. The intra-observer coefficient of variation for same scan analysis was 0.63%. This study has confirmed high reliability of our serial data over one year and the on-going quality assurance protocol enables continuing evaluation of the reproducibility of results in serial studies. Quality assurance is an essential and practical component of all serial MRI studies, without which the clinical implications of change cannot be reliably evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology