Original Research

Diagnosis of nerve root avulsion injuries in adults with traumatic brachial plexopathies: MRI compared with CT myelography

Ewoudt van der Linde, Vanesha Naidu, Ayesha Mitha, Antoine Rocher
South African Journal of Radiology | Vol 19, No 1 | a779 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajr.v19i1.779 | © 2015 Ewoudt van der Linde, Vanesha Naidu, Ayesha Mitha, Antoine Rocher | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2015 | Published: 15 October 2015

About the author(s)

Ewoudt van der Linde, Department of Radiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Vanesha Naidu, Department of Radiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Ayesha Mitha, Department of Radiology, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, South Africa
Antoine Rocher, Department of Orthopedics, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Computed tomography myelography (CTM) has been broadly adopted as the ‘gold standard’ imaging technique in the diagnosis of nerve root avulsion injuries in traumatic brachial plexopathies. CTM has the distinct advantage of better spatial resolution than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); however, this technique is invasive and can result in significant patient discomfort. MRI, therefore, seems relatively more advantageous as it is less invasive (requires no lumbar puncture), lacks radiation exposure, has no adverse reactions related to intrathecal contrast agents and confers excellent soft-tissue contrast.

Objectives: To compare the sensitivity and specificity of MRI with CTM in the diagnosis of preganglionic nerve root avulsion injuries in adults with traumatic brachial plexopathies at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

Method: A retrospective comparative analysis was performed on 16 adult patients with traumatic preganglionic brachial plexopathies who underwent both MRI and CTM at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital. Radiologists experienced in both CTM and MRI interpreted the data and a comparison was made using CTM as the gold standard.

Results: The sensitivity and specificity for MRI detecting preganglionic nerve root avulsion injuries and pseudomeningoceles was 82% and 100% respectively. The interobserver agreement between CTM and MRI for the detection of preganglionic nerve root avulsion injuries was 81.25% (Kappa = 0.77) and 87.5% (Kappa = 0.84) for the detection of pseudomeningoceles.

Conclusion: MRI was as sensitive as CTM at detecting preganglionic nerve root avulsion injuries and pseudomeningoceles of spinal nerve roots C7–T1 of the brachial plexus. Some mild discrepancies existed at the C5 and C6 nerve root levels. Owing to the invasiveness of the procedure and resultant patient discomfort, CTM should be reserved for complicated cases or for patients with contraindications to MRI.


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