Introduction Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a kinetic-dependent disease typically aggravating during spinal loading. To date, assessment of LSS is usually performed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, conventional supine MRI is associated with significant drawbacks as it does not truly reflect physiological loads, experienced by discoligamentous structures during erect posture. Consequently, supine MRI often fails to reveal the source of pain and/or disability caused by LSS. The present study sought to assess neural dimensions via MRI in supine, upright, and upright-hyperlordotic position in order to evaluate the impact of patient positioning on neural narrowing. Therefore, radiological measures such as neuroforaminal dimensions, central canal volume, sagittal listhesis, and lumbar lordosis at spinal level L4/5 were extracted and stratified according to patient posture. Materials and methods Overall, 10 subjects were enclosed in this experimental study. MRI was performed in three different positions: (1) 0 degrees supine (SP), (2) 80 degrees upright (UP), and (3) 80 degrees upright + hyperlordotic (HY) posture. Upright MRI was conducted utilizing a 0.25T open-configuration scanner equipped with a rotatable examination bed allowing for true standing MRI. Radiographic outcome of upright MRI imaging was extracted and evaluated according to patient positioning. Results Upright MRI-based assessment of neural dimensions was successfully accomplished in all subjects. Overall, radiographic parameters revealed a significant decrease of neural dimensions from supine to upright position: Specifically, mean foraminal area decreased from SP to UP by 13.3% (P </= 0.05) as well as from SP to HY position by 21% (P </= 0.05). Supplementation of hyperlordosis did not result in additional narrowing of neural elements (P >/= 0.05). Furthermore, central canal volume revealed a decrease of 7% at HY and 8% at UP compared to SP position (P >/= 0.05). Assessment of lumbar lordosis yielded in a significant increase when assessed at HY (+22.1%) or UP (+8.7%) compared to SP (P </= 0.05). Conclusions Our data suggest that neuroforaminal dimensions assessed by conventional supine MRI are potentially overestimated in patients with LSS. Especially, in patients having occult disease not visualized on conventional imaging modalities, upright MRI allows for a precise, clinically relevant, and at the same time non-invasive evaluation of neural elements in LSS when neural decompression is considered.
Lang, G., Vicari, M., Siller, A., Kubosch, E. J., Hennig, J., Südkamp, N. P., … Kubosch, D. (2018). Preoperative Assessment of Neural Elements in Lumbar Spinal Stenosis by Upright Magnetic Resonance Imaging: An Implication for Routine Practice? Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.2440