Spinal cord compression due to metastatic disease: diagnosis with MR imaging versus myelography

Radiology. 1989 Oct;173(1):225-9. doi: 10.1148/radiology.173.1.2675185.


To determine the efficacy of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and myelography for the diagnosis of spinal cord compression due to metastatic disease, the authors prospectively examined 70 patients who had known or suspected spinal involvement by malignancy. Most MR examinations consisted of T1-weighted sagittal imaging of the entire spine, with additional sequences as needed for clarification. Extradural masses were found in 46 patients, 25 of whom had cord compression. For extradural masses causing cord compression, the sensitivity and specificity of MR imaging was .92 and .90, respectively, compared with .95 and .88 for myelography. For extradural masses without cord compression the sensitivity and specificity of MR imaging was .73 and .90, versus .49 and .88 for myelography. MR imaging was much more sensitive for metastases to bone (.90 vs .49), as expected. MR imaging is an acceptable alternative to myelography for diagnosing spinal cord compression and is preferable as a first study because it is noninvasive and better tolerated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelography*
  • Prospective Studies
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Cord Compression / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology
  • Spinal Neoplasms / complications
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary*