Determination of the normal conus medullaris level in term infants: the role of MRI in early infancy

Mengchun Sun MD1,2, Benzhang Tao MD2, Gan Gao MD2, Hui Wang MD, PhD2, and Aijia Shang MD, PhD2
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  • 1 Medical School, Nankai University, Nankai District, Tianjin, China; and
  • | 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Haidian District, Beijing, China
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OBJECTIVE

This study aimed to explore the migration process of the conus medullaris (CM) in early infancy using infant MRI and to evaluate the application of MRI for locating the infant CM level.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively analyzed the CM level on the lumbosacral MR images of 26 term infants aged < 3 months who were classified into three groups according to age. The authors numbered the CM level in each patient and analyzed the range and average of the CM level of the cohort. The authors studied the linear correlation between CM level and postnatal days with linear regression analysis, 1-way ANOVA, and the least significant difference test.

RESULTS

The CM level ranged from the superior border of the L1 vertebra to the top third of the L3 vertebra. About 96.2% of infants had CM higher than the superior border of the L3 vertebra. On average, CM was located between the L1–2 intervertebral disc and the inferior border of the L2 vertebra (mean ± SD score 1.64 ± 1.14). The three groups had no significant statistical difference in CM level (F = 1.071 and p = 0.359; groups 1 and 2, p = 0.408; groups 1 and 3, p = 0.170; groups 2 and 3, p = 0.755). CM level had no linear regression correlation with postnatal days within the first month (r = 0.061, F = 0.654, p = 0.438) or within the first 3 months (r = 0.002, F = 0.056, p = 0.816).

CONCLUSIONS

The CM level reaches the normal adult level by birth in term infants and does not ascend during childhood. On average, the CM was between the L1–2 intervertebral disc and the inferior border of the L2 vertebra in term infants. Considering the possibility of physiologically low-lying CM, the authors agree that normal CM is located above the L3 level in term infants and CM at the L3 level could be equivocal and should be investigated with other clinical data. The study data suggest that MRI is an accurate and valuable method for determining the CM level in term infants.

ABBREVIATIONS

CM = conus medullaris; CNS = central nervous system; LSD-t = least significant difference test; TCS = tethered cord syndrome; US = ultrasonography.

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