BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Despite the importance of the sympathetic nervous system in homeostasis and its putative role in various disease states, little is known regarding our ability to image the sympathetic chain and sympathetic chain ganglia, perhaps owing to their small size. In this retrospective study, we sought to evaluate the normal anatomy of the sympathetic chain ganglia and assess the detectability of the sympathetic chain and sympathetic chain ganglia on high-resolution 3D-CISS images. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study included 29 patients who underwent 3D-CISS MR imaging of the thoracic spine for reasons unrelated to abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system. Patients with a prior spinal operation or visible spinal pathology were excluded. The sympathetic chain ganglia were evaluated using noncontrast 3D-CISS MR imaging. Statistical analyses included t tests and measures of central tendency. The Cohen statistic was calculated to evaluate interrater reliability. RESULTS: The stellate ganglion and thoracic chain ganglia were identified in all subjects except at the T10 -T11 and T11-T12 levels. The stellate ganglion was found inferomedial to the subclavian artery and anterior and inferior to the transverse process of C7 in all subjects. Thoracic sympathetic chain ganglia were identified ventral to the costovertebral junction in all subjects from T2 to T10. There was strong interobserver agreement for the detection of the sympathetic chain ganglia with 0.80. The size, shape, and location of these structures corresponded with gross anatomic and surgical observations. CONCLUSIONS: The thoracic sympathetic chain ganglia can be identified on precontrast 3D-CISS MR imaging. This technique may aid in the initial evaluation of stellate ganglion and/or sympathetic chain ganglia size and signal change for comparison in future studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology