A Pilot Study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Guided Closed Reduction of Cervical Spine Fractures

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Abstract

Study Design.

We report on a prospective selective case series of 17 patients with cervical fracture-dislocations treated with closed reduction under MRI guidance.

Objective.

To demonstrate the safe and effective use of in-line axial traction in the reduction of cervical fracture-dislocations using MRI guidance.

Summary of Background Data.

Closed reduction of the cervical spine for acute fracture-dislocations has been a traditional technique used for restoring vertebral alignment and providing neural element decompression. The safety of this technique has been questioned, with concerns of disc migration and overdistraction causing neurologic worsening cited as reasons to choose operative reduction and decompression as a safer option in some circumstances.

Methods.

Seventeen patients with fracture-dislocations of the subaxial cervical spine were given a trial of traction under MRI guidance between 1999 and 2003. The incidence of posteriorly herniated disc material was noted, and the diameter of the spinal canal at the injured level was recorded before and after traction.

Results.

All patients tolerated traction without neurologic worsening. Pretraction disc disruption was found in 15 of 17 (88.2%) of patients, with posterior herniation in 4 of 17 (23.5\%). Traction caused a return of herniated disc material toward the disc space in all cases. Canal dimensions improved in 11 of 17 patients, with canal diameter increasing by a factor of 1.1 to 3.0, with a mean improvement of 1.73. The process of reduction was observed to be a gradual one, with progressive, significant improvement in canal dimensions occurring before anatomic realignment. As distracting force was increased, sequential MRIs showed that canal dimensions did not diminish at any time in any patient.

Conclusions.

MRI monitoring in closed cervical reduction is a useful research tool for this technique. Closed reduction appears to be safe as used in this preliminary study and is effective in achieving immediate spinal cord decompression.

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