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Cervical spinal cord multiple sclerosis: evaluation with 2D multi-echo recombined gradient echo MR imaging.

OBJECTIVE: The two-dimensional multi-echo recombined gradient echo (MERGE) technique automatically acquires and sums multiple gradient echoes at various echo times in cervical spine magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. This technique increases the grey-white matter contrast within the spinal cord and should also improve the depiction of cervical cord lesions. The aim of this study was to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate MERGE imaging compared with T2-weighted fast spin-echo (T2WFSE) imaging for depicting multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions in the cervical cord.

METHODS: Nineteen consecutive patients (10 males and 9 females; age range 22-62 years, mean age 43.6 years) with clinically diagnosed MS were examined with cervical spinal cord MR imaging at 3 T including both MERGE and T2WFSE imaging. Qualitative evaluation for MS lesion conspicuity was performed. The quantitative criterion utilized to compare MERGE imaging with T2WFSE imaging was the lesion-to-background contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR).

RESULTS: MERGE imaging showed 79 lesions and missed 1 that was depicted on T2WFSE imaging. T2WFSE imaging showed 46 lesions and missed 34 that were depicted on MERGE imaging. MERGE imaging was markedly superior to T2WFSE imaging in rendering greater lesion conspicuity. In the quantitative evaluation, the lesion-to-background CNR upon MERGE imaging was significantly higher than that upon T2WFSE imaging (P < 0.001, paired t-test).

CONCLUSIONS: MERGE imaging in the cervical spinal cord increases detection and conspicuity of MS lesions. Strong consideration should be given to utilizing axial MERGE images in the diagnosis and follow-up study of cervical cord MS.

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