Increased signal intensity of the spinal cord on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was classified pre- and postoperatively in patients with cervical compressive myelopathy. It was investigated whether postoperative classification and alterations of increased signal intensity could reflect the postoperative severity of symptoms and surgical outcomes.
One hundred and four patients with cervical compressive myelopathy were prospectively enrolled. All were treated using cervical expansive laminoplasty. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed in all patients preoperatively and after an average of 39.7 months postoperatively (range 12–90 months). Increased signal intensity of the spinal cord was divided into 3 grades based on sagittal T2-weighted MR images as follows: Grade 0, none; Grade 1, light (obscure); and Grade 2, intense (bright). The severity of myelopathy was evaluated according to the Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) score for cervical myelopathy and its recovery rate (100% = full recovery).
Increased signal intensity was seen in 83% of cases preoperatively and in 70% postoperatively. Preoperatively, there were 18 patients with Grade 0 increased signal intensity, 49 with Grade 1, and 37 with Grade 2; postoperatively, there were 31 with Grade 0, 31 with Grade 1, and 42 with Grade 2. The respective postoperative JOA scores and recovery rates (%) were 13.9/56.7% in patients with postoperative Grade 0, 13.2/50.7% in those with Grade 1, and 12.8/40.1% in those with Grade 2, and these differences were not statistically significant. The postoperative increased signal intensity grade was improved in 16 patients, worsened in 8, and unchanged in 80 (77%). There was no significant correlation between the alterations of increased signal intensity and surgical outcomes.
The postoperative increased signal intensity classification reflected postoperative symptomatology and surgical outcomes to some extent, without statistically significant differences. The alteration of increased signal intensity was seen postoperatively in 24 patients (23%) and was not correlated with surgical outcome.