Spinal Cord Trauma

Spinal Cord Trauma Imaging

Whether you have been injured in a car accident or suffered from spinal cord trauma, there are many things to look out for. Some of the tests you can undergo include X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. These tests can help you determine if you have any problems with your spine and what steps you should take to get better.


X-rays for spinal cord trauma are used to assess cervical and thoracic spine injuries. These can reveal fractures, tumors, and spinal cord pathology. They can also be used to diagnose numbness and pain, upper back pain, and arm pain.

Spinal cord trauma occurs from a direct or indirect injury to the spinal cord. These injuries can result from a fall, an automobile accident, a diving accident, or even a head-on collision. It can be an acute or subacute condition. Usually, patients who have a significant spinal cord injury will need to have a working airway. X-rays for spinal cord trauma can detect an injured spinal cord by detecting abnormalities in the curves of the vertebrae and the bones of the spine.

If the trauma is a severe one, a multidetector computed tomography (CT) scan is recommended. This is because the CT scan can show finer detail than an X-ray. It may also help identify blood clots and nerve damage.

When an X-ray is performed on a patient, the patient will have to remove clothing. The healthcare provider will then explain the procedure and provide a place to ask questions. The body parts not being imaged may be covered with a lead apron.

X-rays can also be used to diagnose degenerative changes or arthritis in the spine. It is important to recognize that some vertebral fractures can be missed by the scans.

CT scans

X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are used to evaluate spinal cord injuries. X-rays can help detect fractures, tumors, and degenerative changes. MRIs can identify blood clots and herniated disks.

Typical MRI protocols for spinal trauma include sagittal T1W and T2W spin echo sequences. These are especially helpful in assessing traumatic cord injury. In addition to these, multiplanar MRIs can evaluate sequestrated disc fragments.

The most common type of contrast material given into a vein contains iodine. If you have an allergy to iodine, you may experience nausea, sneezing, or hives. In addition, your doctor should know about any prior allergic reactions before using the CT scanner.

CT scans may not be accurate for detecting soft tissue injuries. It is important to note that x-rays are better at detecting fractures than CT, but may miss brain injuries.

Although a CT scan is an accurate diagnostic tool, it should only be used in cases where other imaging modalities fail. A CT may miss brain injuries, which may not develop immediately. It is also important to remember that some patients are sensitive to radiation and should not have repeat CT scans.

MRIs are also useful in determining whether a patient has spinal cord edema. If the edema is resolved, the sensitivity of MRIs decreases. MRIs can also show marrow edema, and this is important to recognize.

The most commonly seen MRI findings in patients with cord trauma are abnormal hyperintense T2 signals, suggesting cord edema. Additionally, the cord may hematoma.


MRI for spinal cord trauma can provide valuable information regarding the degree of tissue injury, prognosis, and the need for surgical intervention. However, the overall body of evidence on the use of MRI in the acute phase of SCI is limited. Despite this, imaging should be part of early management in polytrauma patients. It should provide a rapid assessment of spinal stability and identify potentially important clinical entities.

MRI is a strong magnetic field that produces computer-generated images. The technique is highly sensitive for the detection of hemorrhage and abnormal thickening of the spine. These features are highly predictive of a serious injury to the spine. MRI should be performed within 72 hours after injury.

MRI is a safe and effective way to assess the severity of an acute SCI. This is because the magnetic field can identify blood clots, herniated disks, and masses that compress the spinal cord.

Typical MRI protocols for spinal injury include T2* weighted gradient-recalled echo (GRE) sequences, short tau inversion recovery (STIR) sequences, and sagittal STIR sequences. T2*W images are particularly useful for the evaluation of spinal cord injuries because they produce a fat-suppressed image. The presence of an abnormal hyperintense T2 signal on fluid-sensitive sequences may indicate cord edema.

There is substantial heterogeneity in the reporting and measurement of MRI features. Although there are several studies that report correlations between MRI characteristics and neurologic outcomes, these associations are not well-defined.

Other imaging tests

Several imaging tests are used to evaluate a patient with spinal cord trauma. These include computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These are both excellent diagnostic tools, but they are not substitutes for clinical assessment. Rather, they should supplement findings obtained in the primary and secondary trauma survey.

The CT scan consists of multiple images that take a cross-sectional view of the body. These can detect pre-vertebral soft tissue swelling, as well as instability in the spine. The sagittal T2 weighted image is particularly useful for assessing spinal cord injuries. The T2 signal is hyperintense in the cord, suggesting edema.

The T2* weighted gradient recalled echo (GRE) sequence identifies hemorrhage in the cord. The T2 hyperintensity is also indicative of myelomalacia. These modalities are not used routinely in the initial evaluation of trauma patients. They are usually performed after the patient’s clinical evaluation.

MRI uses a strong magnetic field to produce computer-generated images. These images provide exquisite detail about the appearance of the spinal cord after an injury. It has the ability to identify intravertebral disc herniation, epidural hematoma, and masses that compress the spinal cord. The most common MRI findings in spinal cord trauma are a hyperintense T2 signal, which suggests cord edema.

In addition, the T1-weighted image demonstrates the presence of syrinx formation in the cerebrospinal fluid. This is a good indicator of an acute intramedullary hemorrhage.

Neurological issues

Depending on the level of the injury, neurological issues after spinal cord trauma may be temporary or permanent. It is important to know how to treat these conditions so that patients can get back to their normal lives.

A patient’s neurological function is measured by testing strength and sensation in the arms and legs. The spinal cord is particularly vulnerable to direct injury. In addition, the body’s ability to control other systems below the level of the injury can also be affected.

In the immediate aftermath of a spinal cord injury, pro-inflammatory cytokines are released in the spinal cord. These inflammatory cells induce further damage to the spinal cord. Moreover, they release cytotoxic by-products such as free radicals.

The inflammatory cells remain in the spinal cord even after the subacute phase. This may result in a prolonged period of inflammation and further damage to the spinal cord. This is known as a secondary injury cascade. This cascade is cyclical and produces the death of neurons.

The secondary injury cascade involves the formation of cystic cavities, which contain extracellular fluid. These cavities are poor substrates for cell migration. As a result, they become formidable barriers to directed axonal regrowth.

A second, more chronic phase of spinal cord injury occurs when the primary insult leads to alterations in the extracellular matrix. This process affects oligodendrocyte precursor cells and astrocytes.

This secondary injury cascade can lead to a complete or partial loss of sensorimotor function below the level of the injury. Some alterations in autonomic cerebrovascular control have been suggested as the mechanism.

Mortality risk

Despite improved survival rates over the last decades, mortality risk after spinal cord trauma remains very high. This study analyzed the incidence of cause-specific mortality and its associated risk factors in patients with complete acute traumatic spinal cord injury. It evaluated data from 2000 to 2016, based on case records of people with ATSCI. It also examined psychological and environmental factors.

The results of the study suggested that patients with severe traumatic SCI have a significantly higher mortality risk than those with less severe injuries. There is a need for a better understanding of risk factors and targeted interventions to prevent the death of patients with TSI.

The most life-threatening injuries are those that involve the central nervous system. The leading cause of death in patients with tSCI is an injury to the brain. Surgical management is a critical factor in the long-term survival of patients with tSCI.

The results of the study suggested that the highest mortality rate was observed in the first year after injury. The mortality rate for all admitted adult trauma patients was 6.0%. However, a twofold increase in mortality was seen in patients with abdominal trauma. The most important predictors of in-hospital mortality for patients with surgery include age, neurological injury severity, comorbidities, and ventilation status.

The study suggested that in addition to a thoracic and cervical spine injury, head and abdominal trauma also contributed to higher mortality risk. The study was performed at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center, New Delhi.

Health Sources:

Health A to Z. (n.d.). HSE.ie. https://www2.hse.ie/az/

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Directory Health Topics. (n.d.). https://www.healthline.com/directory/topics

Health A-Z. (2022, April 26). Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/health-a-z-4014770

Harvard Health. (2015, November 17). Health A to Z. https://www.health.harvard.edu/health-a-to-z

Health Conditions A-Z Sitemap. (n.d.). EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/conditions/

Susan Silverman

Susan Silverman

Susan Silverman is a Healthy Home Remedies Writer for Home Remedy Lifestyle! With over 10 years of experience, I've helped countless people find natural solutions to their health problems. At Home Remedy Lifestyle, we believe that knowledge is power. I am dedicated to providing our readers with trustworthy, evidence-based information about home remedies and natural medical treatments. I love finding creative ways to live a healthy and holistic lifestyle on a budget! It is my hope to empower our readers to take control of their health!

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