MRI Signal Intensity Classification in Cervical Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament: Predictor of Surgical Outcomes

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Study Design.Prospective cohort study.Objective.To investigate whether classification of increased signal intensity (ISI) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of spinal cord in patients with cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (C-OPLL) reflects severity of myelopathy and surgical outcome.Summary of Background Data.The relationship between classification of ISI on C-OPLL and severity is unknown.Methods.The 119 consecutive patients (91 men, 28 women) with C-OPLL who underwent surgery were enrolled. T2-weighted MRI was performed before surgery and ISI was classified into three groups as follows, Grade 0, none; Grade 1, light (obscure); and Grade 2, intense (bright). The severity of myelopathy and surgical outcome were evaluated by the Japanese Orthopedic Association score. To determine factors that influence ISI, the change of the spinal cord cross-sectional area (SCA) during flexion and extension was calculated by computed tomography after myelography.Results.The preoperative MRI showed 55 patients in Grade 0, 46 patients in Grade 1, and 18 patients in Grade 2. The preoperative Japanese Orthopedic Association score (Grade 0, 11.2; Grade 1, 10.3; Grade 2, 9.6 points) and surgical outcome got worsened with increasing ISI grade. The patients in Grade 2 had a longer duration of disease, while those in Grade 1 and Grade 2 had a larger change of SCA during flexion and extension (Grade 0, 4.8 mm2; Grade 1, 7.3 mm2; Grade 2, 7.8 mm2). However age, alignment of the cervical spine, range of motion, and occupying ratio of the ossification were not different in the three grades.Conclusion.Grade of ISI correlated with preoperative severity of myelopathy and surgical outcome in patients with C-OPLL. Increased signal intensity of the spinal cord on MRI was associated with a larger change in SCA and longer duration of disease.Level of Evidence: 3

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