Whole-spine magnetic resonance (MR) images were obtained using a cylindrical 3-T MR imaging system in 5 contortionists to assess the pathological changes possibly associated with the practice of contortion. Whole-spine dynamic MR images were obtained using a 1-T open MR imaging system in 2 of these contortionists with the purpose of defining the range of motion (ROM) achieved during extreme contortion. The range of spinal motion in this unique population was then quantified.
The study included 5 female contortionists 20–49 years of age. Imaging was performed using open 1-T and cylindrical 3-T high-field MR imaging systems. Data were viewed and analyzed with DICOM-compliant tools. Real-time, dynamic, and standard MR imaging allowed for quantification of the contortionists' ROM.
There was a difference of 238° between full spinal extension and full flexion. Three of the 5 contortionists had 4 anterosuperior limbus vertebrae at T-11 and the upper lumbar levels.
Whole-spine dynamic MR imaging is a valuable tool for the evaluation of the extreme ROM in contortionists, allowing for the quantification of extreme mobility. The limbus fractures present in 3 of the 5 contortionists is postulated to be due to avulsion on hyperextension. Future research may open the use of whole-spine dynamic MR imaging into such areas as pain management and traumatic spinal injuries.
Abbreviations used in this paper: FFE = fast field echo; FOV = field of view; MR = magnetic resonance; ROM = range of motion; TF = turbo factor; TSE = turbo spin echo; VB = vertebral body.
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