Sequential Damage Assessment of the Different Components of the Posterior Ligamentous Complex After Magnetic Resonance Imaging Interpretation: Prospective Study 74 Traumatic Fractures

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Study Design.

Prospective cohort study.


To study whether there is a sequential pattern in the posterior ligamentous complex (PLC) rupture caused by deforming traumatic forces by analyzing magnetic resonance (MR) images in a consecutive prospective cohort of patients with traumatic vertebral fracture.

Summary of Background Data.

PLC plays an important role in vertebral stability. However, the sequence in which the different components of the PLC tear, in the face of traumatic forces, has not been yet described.


Prospective study of 74 consecutive vertebral acute traumatic fractures analyzed using radiography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (FS-T2-w/short-tau inversion-recovery [STIR] sequences). Fracture morphology was classified according to the AO classification. Integrity of each PLC component—facet capsules, interspinous ligament (ISL), supraspinous ligament (SSL), and ligamentum flavum (LF)—was assessed and classified as intact, edema, or disruption. ISL edema was further subdivided depending on the extension (>50%/<50%). We analyzed the association between MRI signal and the AO progressive scale of morphological damage.


AO type A1/A2 fractures associated with only facet distraction. A3 fractures showed additional ISL edema, usually less than 50%, with neither SSL nor LF disruption. Type B1 fractures associated with facet distraction, ISL edema or disruption, and low rate of SSL/LF disruptions; B2 fractures increased SS/LF disruption rates. Type C fractures associated with facet fracture or dislocation and ISL, SSL, or LF complete rupture. We found high association (P < 0.001) between AO progressive scale and MRI signal.


MRI analysis showed that posterior distraction forces begin in the facets and extend throughout the ISL, starting at its posterosuperior margin (finally disinserting the SSL superiorly) and traveling diagonally toward anteroinferior border, finally tearing the LF.


MR images correlated with AO progressive scale of morphological damage, which showed a progressive orderly rupture sequence among the different PLC components as traumatic forces increased.

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