Diffusion-weighted MRI of denervated muscle: a clinical and experimental study

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The aim of this study was to investigate skeletal muscle denervation using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWMRI).

Materials and methods

Sciatic nerve axotomy was performed in a group of nine New Zealand White rabbits, and electromyographic (EMG), pathological, and DWMRI studies were conducted on ipsilateral hamstring muscles 1 and 8 days after axotomy. In addition, DWMRI studies were carried out on leg muscles of ten patients with acute and subacute lumbosacral radiculopathy.


High intensity signals on short tau inversion recovery (STIR) magnetic resonance imaging and an increased apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) were observed in denervated muscles of the animals 1 and 8 days after axotomy as well as in denervated muscles of the patients with radiculopathy. In the clinical study, ADC was 1.26 ± 0.18 × 10-9 m2/s in normal muscle and increased to 1.56 ± 0.23 × 10-9 m2/s in denervated muscles (p = 0.0016). In animals, EMG and muscle pathological studies were normal 1 day after axotomy, and the muscles demonstrated spontaneous activity on EMG and neurogenic atrophy on histological studies 7 days later.


This DWMRI study demonstrates that enlargement of extracellular fluid space in muscle denervation is an early phenomenon occurring several days before the appearance of EMG and histological abnormalities.

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