MRI of the Cervical Spine
Basics: What is an MRI of the Cervical Spine?
The most common reason why an MRI of the cervical spine is obtained is due to complaints of neck pain, or pain radiating down through the shoulders and arms, a condition called radiculopathy. Most commonly this type of discomfort is secondarily associated with degenerative disc disease. Our cervical MRI exam takes about 30 minutes and we usually obtain sagittal T2, T1, and Vibe sequences, as well as axial T1, PD, and T2 sequences. The key sequences are the axial sequences, through the neuroforamen. We must see the dorsal and ventral rami of the nerve roots coursing from the spinal cord to join as they exit the neuroforamen. Obtaining such detailed images typically requires 2 mm slice thicknesses for the axial images.
An MRI of the cervical spine is usually performed without contrast, unless there is concern for some type of tumor or if there is a problem with the cervical cord, as occurs in demyelinating disease (e.g. multiple sclerosis).
Discussion of images above:
This patient is a 28-year-old man with a lump and pain at the back of his midline lower neck. These sagittal and axial pictures, obtained using dye, and fat suppression techniques, demonstrate a slow growing tumor of low malignancy. The tumor has eroded away the C7 spinous process. The tumor was removed uneventfully.