Spinal cord edema: Unusual magnetic resonance imaging findings in cervical spondylosis

Jangbo Lee, Izumi Koyanagi, Kazutoshi Hida, Toshitaka Seki, Yoshinobu Iwasaki, Kenji Mitsumori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Object. Spinal cord edema is a rare radiological finding in chronic degenerative disorders of the spine. Between 1997 and 2001, the authors treated six patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy in whom postoperative spinal cord edema was demonstrated. The authors describe the radiological and clinical features of this unusual condition. Methods. The six patients were all men, and ranged in age from 44 to 72 years. All patients presented with mild quadriparesis and underwent laminoplasty or anterior fusion. Preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging revealed marked spinal cord compression with intramedullary hyperintensity on T2-weighted sequences and spinal cord enhancement at the compression level after administration of Gd. After surgery, spinal cord edema was observed in all patients; the spinal cord appeared swollen on the postoperative MR images. Preoperative and postoperative Gd-enhanced MR imaging demonstrated clear enhancement of the white matter at the compressed segment. Neurologically, five of six patients experienced good improvement of symptoms; however, the spinal cord edema as documented on follow-up MR imaging persisted for several months after surgery. Conclusions. The radiological characterization of spinal cord edema was based on the reversible white matter lesion most likely caused by disturbed local venous circulation induced by chronic spinal cord compression. Such unusual MR findings in cervical spondylotic myelopathy should be differentiated from intramedullary spinal cord tumors, demyelinating disorders, or inflammatory processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-13
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number1 SUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Spinal cord edema

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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