Value of Perineural Edema/Inflammation Detected by Fat Saturation Sequences in Lumbar Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Patients with Unilateral Sciatica
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Background: Routine lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may not show any evidence of the cause of sciatica in some cases. The relationship between nerve root compression detected on lumbar MRI and sciatica is also sometimes uncertain. Purpose: To ascertain whether axial (and, when necessary, sagittal and coronal) short-tau inversion recovery or fat-saturated T2-weighted MRI findings can be used to study the level of sciatica in patients with a non-yielding routine MRI examination. Material and Methods: A total of 215 patients with unilateral sciatica underwent MRI. All patients were asked to complete pain drawing forms describing their pain dermatomal distributions. Perineural edema/inflammation corresponding to the pain location indicated by the pain drawings was sought on short-tau inversion recovery or fat-saturated T2-weighted images. Results: Routine MRI findings revealed that 110 of the 215 patients had nerve root compromise related to the patients' symptoms. Routine MRI could not ascertain the cause of these symptoms in the remaining 105 patients. In 31 (29.5%) of these 105 patients, short-tau inversion recovery or fat-saturated T2-weighted magnetic resonance images revealed perineural edema/inflammation surrounding the nerve roots related to the pain locations indicated in the pain drawings. Conclusion: Axial (and, when required, sagittal and coronal) short-tau inversion recovery or fat-saturated T2-weighted magnetic resonance images may be helpful for revealing additional findings in cases of unexplained sciatica in standard magnetic resonance imaging. However, the value of this imaging may be not great enough to justify routine use of these additional sequences to study the level of sciatica.