Acute whiplash injury: is there a role for MR imaging?--a prospective study of 100 patients

Radiology. 1996 Oct;201(1):93-6. doi: 10.1148/radiology.201.1.8816527.


Purpose: To evaluate the findings from magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the cervical spine and brain after acute whiplash injury.

Materials and methods: Within 3 weeks of trauma, 100 patients underwent MR imaging for evaluation of the cervical spine and the brain. In addition, plain radiographs were obtained, including functional images of the cervical spine.

Results: Only one patient had an abnormality on the MR image that was related to trauma (ie, prevertebral edema). In 17 patients, functional images showed a kyphotic angle, but no evidence of soft-tissue injury was seen on MR images.

Conclusion: There is no role for MR imaging in the routine work-up of patients with acute whiplash injury who have normal plain radiographic findings and no evidence of a neurologic deficit. A kyphotic angle seen on functional images of the cervical spine should not be assumed to indicate soft-tissue injury and is most likely attributable to a compensating mechanism of hypermobility at a level of the spine above that at which hypomobility occurs, which is probably the result of a muscle spasm.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / diagnosis
  • Whiplash Injuries / diagnosis*