Diffusion tensor imaging of somatosensory tract in cervical spondylotic myelopathy and its link with electrophysiological evaluation

Chunyi Wen, Jiao Long Cui, Kin Cheung Mak, Keith D.K. Luk, Yong Hu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Background and context Abnormal somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) (ie, prolonged latency) has been associated with poor surgical prognosis of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Purpose To further characterize the extent of microstructural damage to the somatosensory tract in CSM patients using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Study design/setting Retrospective study. Patient sample A total of 40 volunteers (25 healthy subjects and 15 CSM patients). Outcome measures Clinical, electrophysiological, and radiological evaluations were performed using the modified Japanese Orthopedic Association (mJOA) scoring system, SEP, and cord compression ratio in anatomic magnetic resonance (MR) images, respectively. Axial diffusion MR images were taken using a pulsed gradient, spin-echo-echo-planar imaging sequence with a 3-T MR system. The diffusion indices in different regions of the spinal cord were measured. Methods Comparison of diffusion indices among healthy and myelopathic spinal cord with intact and impaired SEP responses were performed using one-way analysis of variance. Results In healthy subjects, fractional anisotropy (FA) values were higher in the dorsal (0.73±0.11) and lateral columns (0.72±0.13) than in the ventral column of white matter (0.58±0.10) (eg, at C4/5) (p<.05). FA was dramatically dropped in the dorsal (0.54±0.16) and lateral columns (0.51±0.13) with little change in the ventral column (0.48±0.15) at the compressive lesions in CSM patients. There were no significant differences in the mJOA scores or cord compression ratios between CSM patients with or without abnormal SEP. However, patients with abnormal SEP showed an FA decrease in the dorsal column cephalic to the lesion (0.56±0.06) (ie, at C1/2, compared with healthy subjects [0.66±0.02]), but the same decrease was not observed for those without a SEP abnormality (0.67±0.02). Conclusion Spinal tracts were not uniformly affected in the myelopathic cervical cord. Changes in diffusion indices could delineate focal or extensive myelopathic lesions in CSM, which could account for abnormal SEP. DTI analysis of spinal tracts might provide additional information not available from conventional diagnostic tools for prognosis of CSM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1493-1500
Number of pages8
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical spondylotic myelopathy
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • Microstructure
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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