ACR Appropriateness Criteria® Ataxia

J Am Coll Radiol. 2019 May;16(5S):S44-S56. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2019.02.021.


Ataxia can result from an abnormality in the cerebellum, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and/or vestibular system. Pathology involving the brain, such as infarct or hydrocephalus, can also present with ataxia as part of the symptom constitution, or result in symptoms that mimic ataxia. Clinical evaluation by history and careful neurological examination is important to help with lesion localization, and helps determine where imaging should be focused. In the setting of trauma with the area of suspicion in the brain, a head CT without intravenous contrast is the preferred initial imaging choice. If vascular injury is suspected, CTA of the neck can be helpful. When the area of suspicion is in the spine, CT or MRI of the spine can be considered to assess for bony or soft-tissue injury, respectively. In the setting of ataxia unrelated to recent trauma, MRI is the preferred imaging modality, tailored to assess the brain or spine depending on the area of suspected pathology. The use of intravenous contrast is generally helpful. The American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed annually by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and revision include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer reviewed journals and the application of well-established methodologies (RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation or GRADE) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures for specific clinical scenarios. In those instances where evidence is lacking or equivocal, expert opinion may supplement the available evidence to recommend imaging or treatment.

Keywords: AUC; Appropriate Use Criteria; Appropriateness Criteria; Ataxia; CT; Cerebellum; Cord; MRI; Spine; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States


  • Contrast Media