Novel Grading Scales for Static and Flexion-Extension Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Patients with Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Adam Y. Li, Lily McCarthy, Eugene Hrabarchuk, Zachary Spiera, Naoum Fares Marayati, Alexander J. Schupper, Theodore C. Hannah, Lisa Genadry, Muhammad Ali, Addison Quinones, Roshini Kalagara, Rebecca Baron, Panagiotis Sideras, Thomas P. Naidich, Tanvir F. Choudhri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Flexion-extension magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has potential to identify cervical pathology not detectable on conventional static MRI. Our study evaluated standard quantitative and novel subjective grading scales for assessing the severity of cervical spondylotic myelopathy in dynamic sagittal MRI as well as in static axial and sagittal images. Methods: Forty-five patients underwent both conventional and flexion-extension MRI prior to anterior cervical discectomy and fusion from C4 through C7. In addition to measuring Cobb angles and cervical canal diameter, grading scales were developed for assessment of vertebral body translation, loss of disc height, change in disc contour, deformation of cord contour, and cord edema. Data were collected at all levels from C2-C3 through C7-T1. Variations in measurements between cervical levels and from flexion through neutral to extension were assessed using Mann-Whitney, Kruskal-Wallis, and two-way ANOVA tests. Results: Cervical canal diameter, vertebral translation, and posterior disc opening changed significantly from flexion to neutral to extension positions (P < 0.01). When comparing operative versus nonoperative cervical levels, significant differences were found when measuring sagittal cervical canal dimensions, vertebral translation, and posterior disc opening (P < 0.01). Degenerative loss of disc height, disc dehydration, deformation of ventral cord contour, and cord edema were all significantly increased at operative levels versus nonoperative levels (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Flexion-extension MRI demonstrated significant changes not available from conventional MRI. Subjective scales for assessing degenerative changes were significantly more severe at levels with operative cervical spondylotic myelopathy. The utility of these scales for planning surgical intervention at specific and adjacent levels is currently under investigation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Neurosurgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Dynamic pathology
  • Flexion-extension
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Myelopathy


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