Magnetic Resonance Imaging in a Spinal Abscess Model: Preliminary Report


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Abstract

RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES.Magnetic resonance (MR) scan technique and lesion detectability were evaluated using a newly developed spinal abscess model in the New Zealand White rabbit.METHODS.To create the lesion, an epidural needle was inserted under fluoroscopic guidance in the lumbar region and advanced to penetrate the ligamentum flavum. Next, polyethylene tubing was fed through the needle into the epidural space. A mixed suspension of Staphylococcus aureus (Cowan I) and blue polystyrene microspheres then was injected. Lesions were evaluated by MR imaging in four animals at multiple time points (3, 6, and 9 days). Imaging was performed at 1.5 tesla using a surface coil. Precontrast T2-and T1-weighted scans were first obtained. The T1-weighted scans were acquired both with and without fat saturation, and were repeated after intravenous contrast administration. The contrast agent used was gadoteridol (gadolinium HP-DO3A or ProHance®) at a dose of 0.3 mmol/kg.RESULTS.On prospective film review, postcontrast scans proved superior for lesion detection. A spinal abscess could be identified postcontrast in all cases, irrespective of the use of fat saturation. The next best imaging technique for lesion detection was the T2-weighted scan, with 5 of 8 lesions noted thereon. Visualization of lesion margins proved to be a primary factor in prospective lesion identification. Region of interest image analysis demonstrated the postcontrast scans to be superior to all precontrast scan techniques for conspicuity of the interface between the abscess and the compressed spinal cord, with these results statistically significant. The lesions were characterized histologically by infiltrates of heterophils into the meninges and outer spinal cord with accompanying mild hemorrhage, fibrin exudation, and bacterial colonies. The lesions in three animals were confirmed to be in the epidural space, with the lesion in one animal in the subdural space.CONCLUSIONS.The current animal model was developed to study spine infection and, specifically, imaging characteristics and lesion detectability on MR. With the increased use of epidural catheters for pain management and the large number of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome cases, epidural infection is becoming an increasingly important clinical problem. Imaging technique, in particular the use of intravenous contrast, is critical for lesion detection and evaluation.

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