MRI of cervical spine with flexion and extension used in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Scand J Rheumatol. 2000;29(4):249-54. doi: 10.1080/030097400750041406.


Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often have involvement of the cervical spine. The most common abnormality is atlanto-axial subluxation (AAS). The more serious vertical subluxation (VS) is thought to develop at a later stage. Direct cord compression may occur, but the symptoms may be vague and difficult to interpret. In addition to clinical follow up, RA patients undergo several conventional radiographs of the cervical spine, with addition of flexion and extension images. This, in spite of the fact that the cervical cord and soft tissue do not show. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is the modality of choice to visualize soft tissue and the cervical medulla, but is rarely performed in the follow up of RA patients. Five patients with long-standing RA, episodes of neck pain, and known AAS were asked to volunteer for a MRI study of the cervical spine, consisting of sagittal T2 weighted images of the cervical spine during flexion and extension of the neck. Compared to clinical examinations and cervical radiographs, MRI gave valuable information not otherwise obtained. The importance of MRI with the neck in a flexed and extended position is stressed. This is possible to obtain within a conventional quadrature neck coil in many RA patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Radiography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / pathology*
  • Spine / physiopathology