Advanced Diffusion-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging Techniques of the Human Spinal Cord

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Abstract

Unlike those of the brain, advances in diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) of the human spinal cord have been challenged by the more complicated and inhomogeneous anatomy of the spine, the differences in magnetic susceptibility between adjacent air and fluid-filled structures and the surrounding soft tissues, and the inherent limitations of the initially used echo-planar imaging techniques used to image the spine. Interval advances in DWI techniques for imaging the human spinal cord, with the specific aims of improving the diagnostic quality of the images, and the simultaneous reduction in unwanted artifacts have resulted in higher-quality images that are now able to more accurately portray the complicated underlying anatomy and depict pathologic abnormality with improved sensitivity and specificity. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has benefited from the advances in DWI techniques, as DWI images form the foundation for all tractography and DTI. This review provides a synopsis of the many recent advances in DWI of the human spinal cord, as well as some of the more common clinical uses for these techniques, including DTI and tractography.

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