Diffusion Tensor Imaging of the Spinal Cord: Clinical Value, Investigational Applications, and Technical Limitations

Curr Probl Diagn Radiol. 2018 Jul-Aug;47(4):257-269. doi: 10.1067/j.cpradiol.2017.07.005. Epub 2017 Jul 29.


Although diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) has become a mainstay in modern brain imaging, it remains less utilized in the evaluation of the spinal cord. Many studies have shown promise in using DWI and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) for evaluation of the spinal cord; however, application has been stalled by technical obstacles and artifacts, and questions remain regarding its clinical utility on an individual examination level. This review discusses the background, concepts, and technical aspects of DWI and DTI, specifically for imaging of the spinal cord. The clinical and investigational applications of spinal cord DTI, as well as the practical difficulties and limitations of DWI and DTI for the evaluation of the spinal cord are examined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnostic imaging*