The “ABCDE” Approach to the Systematic Assessment of Lumbar Spine MR Examination

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Abstract

Low back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States and a leading cause of disability for patients younger than 45 years of age. MRI is the examination of choice for patients with complicated or chronic low back pain that has failed conservative therapy. The purpose of this article is to provide a systematic approach to interpretation of lumbar spine MR images, which can be remembered by the acronym “ABCDE”, in an effort to improve diagnostic accuracy and reporting efficiency. A stands for anatomy and alignment; B, bone integrity and marrow; C, cord location and signal; D, disc degeneration and facet arthropathy; and E, extraspinal findings.

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