Comparison between noncontrast computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging for detection and characterization of thoracolumbar myelopathy caused by intervertebral disk herniation in dogs

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Cooper JJ, Young BD, Griffin JFt, et al.

Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2014;55:182-189.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are commonly used to evaluate dogs with thoracolumbar myelopathy; however, relative diagnostic sensitivities for these two modalities have not been previously reported. The purpose of this prospective study was to compare diagnostic sensitivity and observer agreement for MRI and CT in a group of dogs with thoracolumbar myelopathy due to surgically confirmed intervertebral disk herniation (IVDH). All included dogs had magnetic resonance (MR) imaging followed by noncontrast CT using standardized protocols. Three experienced observers interpreted each imaging study independently without knowledge of clinical or surgical findings. The operating surgeon was aware of MR findings but not CT findings at the time surgical findings were recorded. Forty-four dogs met the inclusion criteria. The sensitivity of CT was 88.6% (79.5%-94.2%) and of MR was 98.5% (95% confidence interval, 94.1%-99.7%) for diagnosis of intervertebral disk herniation. Specificity was not calculated, as all dogs had IVDH at surgery. Magnetic resonance imaging was more accurate than CT for identifying the site of intervertebral disk herniation-associated spinal cord compression and differentiating disk extrusion vs. protrusion. Computed tomography was less accurate for lesion localization in per acute cases, as well as for chondrodystrophic, female, older and smaller (<7 kg) dogs. Inter-rater agreement was good for lesion lateralization for both MR and CT (kappa = 0.687, 95% CI = 0.552, 0.822, P = 0.002, and kappa = 0.692, 95% CI = 0.542, 0.842, P = 0.003). Findings from the current study indicated that MR imaging was more sensitive and accurate than noncontrast CT for diagnosis and characterization of thoracolumbar myelopathy due to IVDH in dogs.