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The appearance on MRI of vertebrae in acute compression of the spinal cord due to metastases

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We studied MR images of the spine in a consecutive series of 100 patients with acute compression of the spinal cord due to metastases. All patients had documented neurological deficit and histologically proven carcinoma. MRI was used to localise bony metastatic involvement and soft-tissue impingement of the cord. A systematic method of documenting metastatic involvement is described.

A total of 43 patients had compression at multiple levels; 160 vertebral levels were studied. In 120 vertebrae (75%), anterior, lateral and posterior bony elements were involved. Soft-tissue impingement of the spinal cord often involved more than one quadrant of its circumference. In 69 vertebrae (43%) there was concomitant anterior and posterior compression. Isolated involvement of a vertebral body was observed in only six vertebrae (3.8%).

We have shown that in most cases of acute compression of the spinal cord due to metastases there is coexisting involvement of both anterior and posterior structures.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr F. M. Khaw.

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