Purpose: The purpose of the study was to determine the difference in findings between recumbent and upright-sitting MRI of the cervical and lumbosacral spine in patients with related sign and symptoms.
Materials and methods: A total of 89 patients were studied (lumbosacral spine: 45 patients; cervical: 44 patients). T1-weighted (TR: 350, TE: 20) fast spin echo and T2-weighted (TR: 2500, TE: 160) fast spin echo images were acquired in the sagittal and axial planes in both the recumbent and sitting-neutral positions. The images were acquired on the Upright MRI unit (Fonar Corporation, Melville, NY). Differences were sought between the recumbent and upright-sitting positions at all levels imaged, in both planes.
Results: The total number of cases of pathology was 68, including instances of posterior disc herniation and anterior and posterior spondylolisthesis. Focal posterior disc herniations were noted in 55 patients (cervical: 31, lumbosacral: 24) [62% of patients]. Six of these herniations (cervical: 4, lumbosacral: 2) [11%] were seen only on the upright-sitting study. Focal posterior disc herniations were seen to comparatively enlarge in size in 35 patients on the upright-seated examination (cervical: 21, lumbosacral: 14) [72%], and reduce in size in 9 patients (cervical: 5, lumbosacral: 4) [18%]. Degenerative anterior (n: 11) and posterior (n: 2) spondylolisthesis was seen in 13 patients (cervical: 0, lumbosacral: 13) [15% of patient total]. Anterior spondylolisthesis was only seen on the upright-seated examination in 4 patients (cervical: 0, lumbosacral: 4) [31%]. Anterior spondylolisthesis was comparatively greater in degree on the upright-seated study in 7 patients (cervical: 0, lumbosacral: 7) [54%]. Posterior spondylolisthesis was comparatively greater in degree on the recumbent examination in 2 patients (cervical: 0, lumbosacral: 2) [15%]. The overall combined recumbent miss rate in cases of pathology was 15% (10/68). The overall combined recumbent underestimation rate in cases of pathology was 62% (42/68). The overall combined upright-seated underestimation in cases of pathology was 16% (11/69).
Conclusions: Overall, upright-seated MRI was found to be superior to recumbent MRI of the spine in 52 patents (recumbent missed pathology [n: 10]+recumbent underestimated pathology [n: 42]=52/89 total patients: 58%) in cases of posterior disc herniation and anterior spondylolisthesis. This seems to validate the importance of weight-bearing imaging in the spine that might be expected to unmask positional enlarging disc herniations and worsening spondylolisthesis. Overall, recumbent MRI was found to be superior to upright-seated MRI in 11 cases (11/89: 12%). The latter finding was possibly due to the fact that upright seated position is actually partial flexion that might be expected to reduce some cases of hypermobile posterior spondylolisthesis.