Normal and disrupted lumbar longitudinal ligaments: correlative MR and anatomic study

Radiology. 1989 Apr;171(1):197-205. doi: 10.1148/radiology.171.1.2928526.


The posterior and anterior longitudinal ligaments of the lumbar spine appear on magnetic resonance (MR) images as thin lines of very low signal intensity in all spin-echo sequences. They cover the periphery of the outer fibers of the anulus fibrosus on sagittal images. The lumbar spine of 17 patients with 19 disk herniations was prospectively evaluated with MR imaging, and these findings were correlated with surgical findings. At surgery the posterior ligament was found to be disrupted in eight cases and intact in 11. Absence of a low-signal peripheral line around the herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) was the most reliable sign of ligament rupture (no false-negative or false-positive findings). The peripheral line appeared to be interrupted in four cases, two of which were falsely positive. The two false-positive cases were related to a chemical shift artifact between epidural fat and the HNP. Presence of a normal and continuous peripheral line outlining the HNP excluded ligament disruption. The overall sensitivity for detecting disruption was 100%, and the specificity was 78%.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis*
  • Ligaments / pathology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rupture, Spontaneous