Abscesses are focal confined collections of suppurative inflammatory material and can be thought of as having three components 1:
a central core consisting of necrotic inflammatory cells and local tissue
peripheral halo of viable neutrophils
surrounded by a 'capsule' with dilated blood vessel...
Anterior vertebral body beaking occurs in a number of conditions and may emanate from the central portion or the lower third of the vertebral body.
Morquio syndrome 1 (middle for Morquio)
Hurler syndrome 2
The atlantodental interval (ADI), as the name suggests, is the horizontal distance between the anterior arch of the atlas and the dens of the axis, used in the diagnosis of atlanto-occipital dissociation injuries and injuries of the atlas and axis.
It is the distance (in mm) between the posteri...
Basilar invagination, also called basilar impression, is a congenital or acquired craniocervical junction abnormality where the tip of the odontoid process projects above the foramen magnum.
The terms basilar invagination and basilar impression are often used interchangeably becau...
The basion-axial interval (BAI), as the name suggests, is the horizontal distance between the basion and the posterior cortex of the axis, used in the diagnosis of atlanto-occipital dissociation injuries.
It is the distance (in mm) between the basion and the superior extension of the posterior ...
The basion-dens interval (BDI), as the name suggests, is the distance between the basion and the tip of the dens, used in the diagnosis of atlanto-occipital dissociation injuries.
It is the distance from the most inferior portion of the basion to the closest point of the superior aspect of the ...
Bone within a bone is a descriptive term applied to bones that appear to have another bone within them. There are numerous causes including:
thoracic and lumbar vertebrae (neonates and infants)
growth recovery lines (after infancy)
cortical splitting and new periostitis
sickle cell d...
Boogard's angle is measured by drawing a line from basion to opisthion and another line along the plane of the clivus to the basion intersecting the first line - the angle between these two lines is measured .
The normal angle is 126° +/- 6°. If the angle measures more than 136° it is indicativ...
Cervical spine fractures can occur secondary to exaggerated flexion or extension, or because of direct trauma or axial loading.
The cervical spine is susceptible to injury because it is highly mobile with relatively small vertebral bodies and supports the head which is both heavy and...
Cervical spine injuries can involve the cervical vertebral column, intervertebral discs and cervical spine ligaments, and/or cervical spinal cord. The cervical spine accounts for ~50% of all spinal injuries.
5-10% of patients with blunt trauma have a cervical spine injury 1.
Chamberlain line is a line joining the back of hard palate with the opisthion on a lateral view of the craniocervical junction.
It helps to recognize basilar invagination which is said to be present if the tip of the dens is >3 mm above this line.
McGregor developed a modificatio...
Chance fractures, also referred to as seatbelt fractures, are flexion-distraction type injuries of the spine that extend to involve all three spinal columns. These are unstable injuries and have a high association with intra-abdominal injuries.
They tend to occur from a fl...
Coronal vertebral clefts refer to the presence of radiolucent vertical defects on a lateral radiograph.
It is most often seen in premature male infants 1,3. As they can occur as part of normal variation (especially in the lower thoracic-upper lumbar spine of premature infants) t...
Craniovertebral junction (CVJ) anomalies can be congenital, developmental or due to malformation secondary to any acquired disease process. These anomalies can lead to cranial nerve compression, vertebral artery compression and obstructive hydrocephalus.
The craniovertebral junction ...
A diffuse homogeneous bone marrow FDG uptake usually reflects hyperplastic bone marrow which can be seen in the following conditions:
granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)
Diffuse T1 vertebral bone marrow signal loss has a number of causes. T1-weighted imaging without fat suppression is one of the most important sequences for distinguishing between normal and abnormal bone marrow. Given the homogeneity, this appearance can often be difficult to spot as abnormal. ...
Dural ectasia refers to ballooning or widening of the dural sac which can result in posterior vertebral scalloping and is associated with herniation of nerve root sleeves.
Patients with dural ectasia may present with low back pain or radicular pain in the buttocks or legs...
Erosion of the odontoid peg can result from a number of pathological entities:
rheumatoid arthritis: classic 1,2
systemic lupus erythematosus
calcium pyrophosphate arthropathy (CPPD): relatively common
non-inflammatory arthropathy: osteoar...
Facet dislocation refers to anterior displacement of one vertebral body on another. Without a fracture, the only way anterior displacement can occur is by dislocation of the facets.
Facet dislocation can occur to varying degrees:
The injury usua...
Gibbus deformity is a short-segment structural thoracolumbar kyphosis resulting in sharp angulation.
There are a number of causes which can be divided into congenital and acquired.
cretinism (congenital hypothyroidism)
Hangman fracture, also known as traumatic spondylolisthesis of the axis, is a fracture which involves the pars interarticularis of C2 on both sides, and is a result of hyperextension and distraction.
These injuries account for 4-7% of all cervical spine fractures and up to 22% of ...
Holocord presentation refers to a process which involves the spinal cord, from cervicomedullary junction to the tip of the conus. It does not relate to a specific condition nor does it distinguish between involvement by cystic expansion or solid tumor, or by a combination of both. It merely deno...
Intervertebral disc calcification is a non-specific finding seen in numerous conditions.
It may be observed in pediatric 5 as well as adult populations.
degenerative: relatively common and may occur in up to 6% of routine abdominal radiographs in adults
Intradural extramedullary neoplasms are located outside the spinal cord but within the dural sheath.
The majority (70-80%) of spinal canal tumors are intradural extramedullary 1.
Patients present with signs and symptoms of spinal cord or nerve root compres...
Intramedullary spinal metastases are rare, occurring in ~1% of autopsied cancer patients, and are less common than leptomeningeal metastases.
Intramedullary lesions may result from:
growth along the Virchow-Robin spaces
direct extension from leptomeninges
Locked facet joint is a type of facet joint dislocation that results from jumping of the inferior articular process over the superior articular process of the vertebra below and becomes locked in the position.
It can be unilateral or bilateral.
The tip ...
Longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesions (LESCL), also known as longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM), represent extensive involvement of the spinal cord, with abnormal T2 signal traversing at least three vertebral body segments in length.
They are typi...
Loss of intervertebral disc space can be due to a variety of causes:
degenerative disc disease of the spine: most common cause
dialysis related spondyloarthropathy
crystal deposition diseases
McRae line is a radiographic line drawn on a lateral skull radiograph or midsagittal section of CT or MRI, joining the basion and opisthion.
Normal position of the tip of dens is 5mm below this line. If the tip of the dens migrates above this line it indicates the presence of basilar invaginati...
Meningoceles are protrusions of the meninges through a defect or weak point in the skull or spine, usually involving the soft tissues beneath the surface of the skin. They are typically categorized into congenital, iatrogenic (e.g. following a craniotomy, sinus surgery, or as a laminectomy compl...
The differential diagnosis for masses of the cauda equina region is often considered separately to the remainder of the spinal cord. It is often difficult to determine whether masses in this region are intramedullary or intradural-extramedullary.
Most common tumors
Nerve root enhancement is phenomenon described on post contrast MRI scans that can be observed in a number of situations.
post-operative nerve root enhancement
disseminated spinal leptomeningeal metastases
Osteoarthritis of the vertebral column, also known as spondylosis deformans, is common and usually merely referred to as spinal "degenerative change". Complications such as spinal stenosis are important to recognize.
The hallmark of osteoarthritis in the spine, as is the...
Parasyndesmophytes or floating syndesmophytes are, as the name suggests, paravertebral dystrophic soft tissue calcifications or heterotopic ossifications.
They are known to be seen in psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis 4.
Initially they begin at a dist...
Posterior vertebral fusion anomalies are relatively common and should not be mistaken for fractures. They are thought to be both developmental and pathological (e.g. spondylolysis) but are typically asymptomatic and incidental, and considered as anatomical variants. There are six types of poster...
The Powers ratio is a measurement of the relationship of the foramen magnum to the atlas, used in the diagnosis of atlanto-occipital dissociation injuries.
The ratio, AB/CD, is measured as the ratio of the distance in the median (midsagittal) plane between the:
basion (A) and the posterior spi...
The most common tumor of the spine is metastatic deposits. A number of both benign and malignant tumors may arise primarily from the spine.
giant cell tumor (GCT)
aneurysmal bone cyst (ABC)
eosinophilic granuloma (EG)
The term retrolisthesis (more rarely the synonyms retrospondylolisthesis or posterolisthesis) refers to posterior displacement (backward slip) of a vertebral body relative to one below. Causes include trauma, facet joint osteoarthritis or congenital anomalies (e.g. underdevelopment of the pedicl...
A retropulsed fragment is any vertebral fracture fragment that is displaced into the spinal canal, thereby potentially causing spinal cord injury.
They usually arise from the vertebral body with or without a portion of the pedicle, and are displaced posteriorly, hence the prefix 'retro'.
Scheuermann disease, also known as juvenile kyphosis, juvenile discogenic disease 11, or vertebral epiphysitis, is a common condition which results in kyphosis of the thoracic or thoracolumbar spine. The diagnosis is usually made on plain film.
occurs in ~5% (range 0.4-8%) of the ...
Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. It is quite common in young individuals and is often idiopathic and asymptomatic. In some cases, however, it is the result of underlying structural or neurological abnormalities.
By definition, scoliosis is any la...
Spinal cord compression is a surgical emergency, usually requiring prompt surgical decompression to prevent permanent neurological impairment.
There are numerous causes of cord compression. These can be divided according to the location of the compressing mass:
Spinal dysraphism is a broad term given to a group of anomalies where there are malformations in the dorsum of the embryo. Neural tube defects come under this group as well.
The neural tube is formed by the lengthwise closure of the neural plate, in the dorsum of the embryo.
The differential diagnosis for a spinal epidural mass includes:
herniated nucleus pulposus
epidural arteriovenous malformation
Spinal fractures are usually the result of significant trauma to a normally formed skeleton, or the result of trauma to a weakened spinal column. Examples include:
Jefferson fracture: ring fracture of C1
hangman fracture: bilateral pedicle or pars fracture of C2
Spinal hematomas are a rare clinical entity and are often idiopathic. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial, lest they cause permanent neurological damage.
Identifying the location of the hematoma is important for treatment, as is distinguishing it, to the extent possible, from other entit...
Spinal metastases is a vague term which can be variably taken to refer to metastatic disease to any of the following:
vertebral metastases (94%)
may have epidural extension
intradural extramedullary metastases (5%)
intramedullary metastases (1%)
Each of these are discussed separately. Below...
Synovial cysts of the spine are cystic formations connected to the facet joint and containing synovial fluid lined by a cuboid or pseudostratified columnar epithelium. They may result in lumbar radiculopathy in a significant number of cases.
They may be asymptomatic and f...
Spinal vascular malformations (SVM) are rare but knowledge of them is important as if undiagnosed and untreated they can lead to serious complications.
There are two main types of SVMs 1,2:
spinal arteriovenous fistula (AVF): 70% of SVMs
pial: small, large, or giant
dural AVF (DA...
Subluxed facet joint is the mildest form of facet dislocation in which the ligamentous injury leads to partial uncovering of facet joint (c.f. complete uncovering in perched facet). This results in mild anterior displacement of one vertebral body on another (anterolisthesis).
Syndesmophytes are calcifications or heterotopic ossifications inside a spinal ligament or of the annulus fibrosus. They are seen in only a limited number of conditions including:
They can be classified as...
Torticollis (wryneck) is a clinical finding of head tilt with or without rotational spinal malalignment. It is not a diagnosis in itself and there are a wide range of underlying conditions. It is most common in the pediatric age group.
Torticollis can be acute (<1 week) or chronic (...
Traumatic spinal cord injury can manifest as a wide variety of clinical syndromes resulting from damage to the spinal cord or its surrounding structures. It can result from minor injury if the spine is weakened from disease such as ankylosing spondylitis or if there is pre-existing spinal stenos...
Unilateral facet dislocation is a relatively stable type of facet dislocation.
Flexion/distraction associated with rotation. The inferior articular facet of vertebral above moves over the superior facet of the vertebral below and becomes locked. It usually affects C4-C5 or...
The differential diagnosis for a vertebral body mass is broad and may range from a completely benign, sclerotic enostosis (bone island) to a malignant primary bone tumor.
Broadly, these lesions can be separated into:
primary bone tumors
Vertebral scalloping is a concavity to the posterior (or less commonly anterior) aspect of the vertebral body when viewed in a lateral projection. A small amount of concavity is normal, as is concavity of the anterior vertebral body (see vertebral body squaring).
Vertebra plana (pleural: vertebrae planae), also known as the pancake or silver dollar or coin-on-edge vertebra, is the term given when a vertebral body has lost almost its entire height anteriorly and posteriorly, representing a very advanced compression fracture.
It can occur in a ...
The (absent) pedicle sign, also called the winking owl sign, occurs on plain film when a pedicle is absent.
The term, winking owl sign, where the missing pedicle corresponds to the closed eye, the contralateral pedicle to the other open eye, and the spinous process to the beak of the animal on ...