Thursday, October 07, 2004

Better Recovery for Spinal Cord Injuries

Patients with spinal cord injuries could benefit from early magnetic resonance imaging, according to the findings of a new study.

Canadian neuroscientists discovered that MRI technology could determine if performing surgery would benefit patients. They found trauma-induced spinal cord compression on MRIs predict a poorer neurological recovery.

Surgery can relieve spinal cord compression. However, unless surgeons are fairly certain the procedure will benefit the patient, they are generally reluctant to operate because of the risks. Researchers say this study should remove that uncertainty.

Researchers evaluated the records of 22 patients who were admitted to the hospital with spinal cord injury and who were assessed with both MRI and computed tomography at admission and at a follow-up examination about 10 months later. They examined whether there is an association between the degree of spinal cord injury compression in the period just after traumatic injury and clinical neurological outcome. They found evidence of spinal cord compression on MRI, but not CT, predicted a poorer recovery.

Researchers conclude, "It is our view MRI should be done whenever feasible in all patients with an acute spinal cord injury to evaluate the extent of spinal cord compression. It is our practice to undertake urgent and thorough decompression of the spinal cord with the view of trying to maximize the extent of neurological recovery."

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: Presented at the 129th annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in Toronto, Oct. 4, 2004