JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Clinical value of routine preoperative magnetic resonance imaging in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. A prospective study of three hundred and twenty-seven patients.

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of intraspinal pathology associated with scoliosis has been reported to be as high as 26% in some series, and, on the basis of this finding, preoperative magnetic resonance imaging is used in the screening of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. However, this practice continues to be highly controversial. In order to better resolve this issue, we performed what we believe to be the largest prospective study to evaluate the need for preoperative magnetic resonance imaging in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis requiring arthrodesis of the spine.

METHODS: A total of 327 consecutive patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis were evaluated between December 1991 and March 1999. All patients in the study presented with an adolescent idiopathic scoliosis curve pattern and had a complete physical and neurologic examination. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and the spinal cord were performed as part of their preoperative work-up.

RESULTS: Seven patients had an abnormality noted on magnetic resonance imaging. These abnormalities included a spinal cord syrinx in two patients (0.6%) and an Arnold-Chiari type-I malformation in four (1.2%). One patient had an abnormal fatty infiltration of the tenth thoracic vertebral body. No patient required neurosurgical intervention or additional work-up. All patients who underwent spinal arthrodesis with segmental instrumentation tolerated the surgery without any immediate or delayed neurologic sequelae.

CONCLUSIONS: The fact that magnetic resonance imaging did not detect any important pathology in the large number of patients in this study strongly suggests that magnetic resonance imaging is not indicated prior to arthrodesis of the spine in patients with an adolescent idiopathic scoliosis curve pattern and a normal physical and neurologic examination.

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