Diagnostic Yield of Intrathecal Gadolinium MR Myelography for CSF Leak Localization

Clin Neuroradiol. 2022 Jun;32(2):537-545. doi: 10.1007/s00062-021-01060-y. Epub 2021 Jul 22.


Purpose: Intrathecal gadolinium magnetic resonance (MR) myelography can be used to localize various types of spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks; however, its diagnostic yield is not well known. We sought to determine the diagnostic yield of MR myelography in patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed on all patients who had undergone intrathecal gadolinium MR myelography at our institution from 2002 to 2020 for suspected spinal CSF leak. The MR myelography images were reviewed for the presence or absence of a spinal CSF leak site. Images were also evaluated for the presence an extradural fluid collection.

Results: A total of 97 patients were included in the final cohort. The average age was 52.6 years; 67.0% were female, 4 patients underwent 2 examinations each, yielding a total of 101 MR myelograms. The source of a spinal CSF leak was localized in 14 patients. The diagnostic yield for CSF leak localization on intrathecal gadolinium MR myelography was 14/101 (13.9%) per GdM examination and 14/97 (14.4%) per patient. Among the subset of patients without extradural fluid collections, the yield was 15.7% per examination. All detected leaks were either CSF-venous fistulas or distal nerve root sleeve tears.

Conclusion: Intrathecal gadolinium MR myelography is capable of localizing CSF-venous fistulas and distal nerve root sleeve tears; however, our data show that it has a limited diagnostic yield. We suggest that other modalities may be a better first step before attempting intrathecal gadolinium MR myelography.

Keywords: CSF leak; CSF-venous fistula; Digital subtraction myelography; Intrathecal gadolinium MR myelography; SIH.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Fistula*
  • Gadolinium
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypotension* / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelography / methods


  • Gadolinium