New approaches in imaging of the brachial plexus

Eur J Radiol. 2010 May;74(2):403-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2010.01.024. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


Imaging plays an essential role for the detection and analysis of pathologic conditions of the brachial plexus. Currently, several new techniques are used in addition to conventional 2D MR sequences to study the brachial plexus: the 3D STIR SPACE sequence, 3D heavily T2w MR myelography sequences (balanced SSFP=CISS 3D, True FISP 3D, bFFE and FIESTA), and the diffusion-weighted (DW) neurography sequence with fiber tracking reconstruction (tractography). The 3D STIR sequence offers complete anatomical coverage of the brachial plexus and the ability to slice through the volume helps to analyze fiber course modification and structure alteration. It allows precise assessment of distortion, compression and interruption of postganglionic nerve fibers thanks to the capability of performing maximum intensity projections (MIP) and multiplanar reconstructions (MPRs). The CISS 3D, b-SSFP sequences allow good visualization of nerve roots within the spinal canal and may be used for MR myelography in traumatic plexus injuries. The DW neurography sequence with tractography is still a work in progress, able to demonstrate nerves tracts, their structure alteration or deformation due to pathologic processes surrounding or located along the postganglionic brachial plexus. It may become a precious tool for the understanding of the underlying molecular pathophysiologic mechanisms in diseases affecting the brachial plexus and may play a role for surgical planning procedures in the near future.

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Plexus / pathology*
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends*