Anatomical landmarks and skin markers are not reliable for accurate labeling of thoracic vertebrae on MRI

Nogah Shabshin, Mark E. Schweitzer, John A. Carrino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Numbering of the thoracic spine on MRI can be tedious if C2 and L5S1 are not included and may lead to errors in lesion level. Purpose: To determine whether anatomic landmarks or external markers are reliable as an aid for accurate numbering of thoracic vertebrae on MRI. Material and Methods: Sixty-seven thoracic spine MR studies of 67 patients (30 males, 37 females, age range 1883 years) were studied, composed of 52 consecutive MR studies and an additional 15 MRI in which vitamin E markers were placed over the skin. In the 52 thoracic MR examinations potential numbering aids such as the level of the sternal apex, pulmonary artery, aortic arch, and osseous or disc abnormalities were numbered on both cervical localizer (standard of reference) and thoracic sagittal images. The additional 15 examinations in which vitamin E markers were placed over the skin were evaluated for consistency in the level of the markers on different sequences in the same exam. Results: The sternal apex level ranged from T2 to T5 [T3 in 28/51 patients (55%), T2 in 10/51 (20%)]. The aortic arch level ranged from T2 to T4 [T4 in 18/48 (38%) and T3 in 17 (35%)]. Pulmonary artery level ranged from T4 to T67 disc [T5 in 20/52 patients (38%) and T6 in 14/52 (27%)]. In 3 of 12 patients who had abnormalities in a vertebral body or disc as definite point reference, the non-localizer image mislabeled the level. In 11/15 (73%) patients with vitamin E markers that were placed over the upper thoracic spine, the results showed consistency in the level of the markers in relation to the reference points or consistent inter-marker gap between the sequences. Conclusion: There are only two reliable ways to accurately define the levels if no landmarking feature is available on the magnet. The first is by including C2 in the thoracic sequence of a diagnostic quality, and the second is by using an abnormality in the discs or vertebral bodies as a point of reference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1042
Number of pages5
JournalActa Radiologica
Volume51
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010

Keywords

  • Adults and pediatrics
  • Anatomy
  • Axial skeleton
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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