Diffusion-weighted MRI of spinal cord infarction--high resolution imaging and time course of diffusion abnormality

J Neurol. 2004 Jul;251(7):818-24. doi: 10.1007/s00415-004-0434-z.


Infarction is a rare cause of spinal cord dysfunction. Whereas diffusion-weighted (DW) MRI has been established as a highly sensitive technique for assessing acute cerebral ischemia, its role in spinal cord infarction remains to be determined. The purpose of this study is to present the signal characteristics of acute spinal cord ischemia using DWMRI within the first two days and after one week. MRI including DW imaging (DWI) was performed in three patients with acute spinal cord dysfunction 8, 12 and 30 hours after the onset of symptoms and repeated after one week in two patients. Two initial scans included EPI DW sequences in transverse and sagittal orientation. The remaining examinations were performed with an optimised high-spatial resolution DWI sequence in the transverse plane. The diagnosis of spinal cord ischemia was established by imaging, clinical history and CSF analysis. T2 signal abnormality and restricted diffusion was demonstrated in all initial examinations. Transverse DW sequences had the highest sensitivity. The spinal infarctions were mainly located in the centre of the spinal cord and the grey matter. Contrast enhancement was absent. After one week, the restricted diffusion had normalised (pseudo normalisation) whereas the T2 signal changes had become more prominent. Restricted diffusion in the course of spinal cord ischemic infarction can be demonstrated using DW-MRI. Whereas a diffusion abnormality can be found after few hours, it does not last for longer than one week. At this time, the establishment of the diagnosis has to rely mainly on T2-weighted images with additional post contrast T1-weighted images being useful.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Disease Progression
  • Edema / pathology
  • Edema / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Infarction / pathology
  • Infarction / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Time Factors