Imaging & Diagnostics

Spinal Arthritis Diagnostic Imaging Approach Part I

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Degenerative Arthritis

  • Spinal Arthritis:
  • Spondylosis aka Degenerative disease of the spine represents an evolution of changes affecting most mobile spinal segments beginning with:
  • Intervertebral disc (IVD) dehydration (desiccation) and degeneration aka Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) with an abnormal increase in mechanical stress and degeneration of posterior elements affecting 4-mobile synovial articulations ( true osteoarthritis)
  • 2-Facets in the L/S & 2-Facets & 2-Uncovertebral joints in the C/S
  • Imaging plays a significant role in the diagnosis, grading, and evaluation of neurological complications (e.g., spondylotic myelopathy/radiculopathy)
  • X-radiography with AP, Lateral & Oblique spinal views provides Dx and classification of Spondylosis
  • MR imaging may help to evaluate the degree of neurological changes associated with degenerative spinal canal and neural foraminal stenosis
  • Spinal motion segment:
  • 2-adjacent vertebrae
  • IVD (fibrocartilage)
  • 2-facets (synovial)
  • Pathology: loss of disc height increases mechanical stress on mobile elements
  • Ligamentous laxity/local instability
  • Spinal osteophytes aka spondylophytes & bony facet/uncinate proliferation
  • Disc herniation and often disc-osteophyte complex
  • Ligamentum flavum β€œhypertrophy” or thickening due to buckling
  • Loss of normal lordosis with or w/o reversal or kyphosis
  • Vertebral canal & neural foraminal stenosis

Neutral lateral cervical radiograph: note mild to moderate disc narrowing and spondylophyte formation at C5-6 & C6-C7 (most common levels affected by cervical spondylosis). Straightening or flattening with mild reversal of cervical lordosis. Some mild facet proliferation is noted at the above levels

  • On radiographs: evaluate for disc height (mild, moderate or severe) loss
  • End-plate sclerosis & spondylophytes; mild, moderate or severe
  • Facet and uncinate irregularity, hypertrophy/degeneration; mild, moderate or severe
  • Note degenerative instability aka degenerative spondylolisthesis/retrolisthesis
  • Normal or lost lordosis vs. degenerative kyphosis
  • Key Dx: correlate with a clinical presentation: neck/back pain with or w/o neurological disturbance ( myelopathy vs. radiculopathy or both)
  • Uncinate processes undergo degeneration/proliferation resulting in uncovertebral arthrosis
  • Early findings present with mild bone proliferation along the cortical margin (white and black arrows) if compared to normal uncinate (orange arrow)
  • Later, more extensive bone proliferation extending into and narrowing vertebral canal and neural osseous foramina (IVF’s) may be noted. The latter may contribute to spinal/IVF stenosis and potential neurological changes
  • Posterior oblique views may help further
  • AP lower cervical (a) and posterior oblique (b) views
  • Note mild uncinated process proliferation with neural foraminal narrowing (arrows)
  • Typically if less than a third of IVF becomes narrowed, patients may present w/o significant neurological signs
  • Lumbar spondylosis is evaluated with AP and lateral views with additional AP L5-S1 spot view to examine lumbosacral junction
  • Typical features include disc height loss/degeneration
  • Intra-discal gas (vacuum) phenomenon (blue arrow) along with spondylophytes
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis and/or retrolisthesis (green arrow) may follow disc and facet degeneration and can be graded by the Meyerding classification
  • In most cases, degenerative spondylolisthesis rarely progresses beyond Grade 2
  • Lumbar facet degeneration seen as bone proliferation/sclerosis and IVF narrowing
  • MR imaging w/o gad C is an effective modality to evaluate clinical signs of spondylosis & associated neurological complications with pre-surgical evaluation
  • Case: 50-y.o Fe with neck pain. Case b-45-y.o.M (top a b images). MRI reveals: loss of disc hydration or desiccation, spondylophytes and disc herniation w/o neurological changes
  • (Bottom images) Left: preoperative and right postoperative MRI slices of the patient presented with clinical signs of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Note disc herniation, ligam flavum hypertrophy and canal stenosis (left)
  • Sagittal MRI slice of lumbar DDD manifested with disc desiccation and posterior herniation effacing thecal sac
  • Correlating sagittal and axial slices will be more informative to evaluate canal stenosis and potential degree of neurological involvement (above-bottom images)

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) aka Forestier disease

  • Flowing degenerative ossification of ALL
  • M/c Thoracic spine. 2nd m/c-cervical spine
  • Dx by imaging only. X-radiography is sufficient
  • CT w/o contrast helps with Dx of Fx
  • Men>women. Pts>60-y.o. Extensive DISH shows 49% association with type 2DM
  • Complications: Chalk (carrot) stick Fx. Unstable 3-column Fx requiring surgical fusion
  • Sagittal reconstructed CT scan slice in bone window
  • Chalk stick Fx at C5-C6 in the patient with DISH and OPLL

Spinal Arthritis

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The information herein on "Spinal Arthritis Diagnostic Imaging Approach Part I" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

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