Application of magnetic resonance neurography in the evaluation of patients with peripheral nerve pathology

Aaron G. Filler M.D., Ph.D. 1 , Michel Kliot M.D. 1 , Franklyn A. Howe D.Phil. 1 , Cecil E. Hayes Ph.D. 1 , Dawn E. Saunders M.B.B.S., M.R.C.P. 1 , Robert Goodkin M.D. 1 , B. Anthony Bell M.D., F.R.C.S. 1 , H. Richard Winn M.D. 1 , John R. Griffiths M.B.B.S., D.Phil. 1 , and Jay S. Tsuruda M.D. 1
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  • 1 Department of Neurological Surgery, Diagnostic Imaging Sciences Center of the Department of Radiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington; and Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Cancer Research Campaign Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Research Group, St. George's Hospital Medical School, London, England
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✓ Currently, diagnosis and management of disorders involving nerves are generally undertaken without images of the nerves themselves. The authors evaluated whether direct nerve images obtained using the new technique of magnetic resonance (MR) neurography could be used to make clinically important diagnostic distinctions that cannot be readily accomplished using existing methods.

The authors obtained T2-weighted fast spin—echo fat-suppressed (chemical shift selection or inversion recovery) and T1-weighted images with planes parallel or transverse to the long axis of nerves using standard or phased-array coils in healthy volunteers and referred patients in 242 sessions.

Longitudinal and cross-sectional fascicular images readily distinguished perineural from intraneural masses, thus predicting both resectability and requirement for intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring. Fascicle pattern and longitudinal anatomy firmly identified nerves and thus improved the safety of image-guided procedures. In severe trauma, MR neurography identified nerve discontinuity at the fascicular level preoperatively, thus verifying the need for surgical repair. Direct images readily demonstrated increased diameter in injured nerves and showed the linear extent and time course of image hyperintensity associated with nerve injury. These findings confirm and precisely localize focal nerve compressions, thus avoiding some exploratory surgery and allowing for smaller targeted exposures when surgery is indicated.

Direct nerve imaging can demonstrate nerve continuity, distinguish intraneural from perineural masses, and localize nerve compressions prior to surgical exploration. Magnetic resonance neurography can add clinically useful diagnostic information in many situations in which physical examinations, electrodiagnostic tests, and existing image techniques are inconclusive.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Aaron G. Filler, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Neurosurgery, University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, CHS 74–140, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095–6901.
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