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Postoperative diskitis: distinguishing early MR imaging findings from normal postoperative disk space changes

S D Boden, D O Davis, T S Dina, J L Sunner, S W Wiesel
Radiology 1992, 184 (3): 765-71
To distinguish early magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings in postoperative diskitis from normal postoperative changes, a prospective study was performed in 15 asymptomatic patients (17 disk levels) who underwent uncomplicated lumbar diskectomy and seven patients with proved postoperative diskitis. On postoperative MR images, four of the asymptomatic patients had a finding that could also be seen in patients with diskitis. Gadolinium enhancement was useful in making the distinction and occurred as follows: (a) vertebral bone marrow: all seven diskitis patients and one asymptomatic patient; (b) disk space: five diskitis patients and three asymptomatic patients; and (c) posterior anulus fibrosus: all seven diskitis patients and 13 asymptomatic patients (14 of 17 levels). This entire triad of findings, which is strongly suggestive of postoperative diskitis, was not seen in any of the asymptomatic patients. Changes in the disk space and adjacent bone marrow on pre- and post-contrast MR images after routine diskectomy are uncommon and should not be assumed to be normal postoperative changes without careful consideration and analysis for early diskitis.

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