Advances in Imaging of the Spinal Cord Vascular Supply and its Relationship with Paraplegia after Aortic Interventions. A Review

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Introduction: Preoperative knowledge of the spinal cord (SC) vasculature could be useful for stratifying and decreasing the risk of perioperative paraplegia after thoracic and thoraco-abdominal aortic surgery. Recent advances in magnetic resonance (MR) and computed tomography (CT) angiography and post-processing techniques have improved this knowledge. Methods: A search of MEDLINE/Pubmed and SCOPUS databases identified 1414 pertinent abstracts; 123 full-length manuscripts were screened to identify relevant studies with acceptable design and patient numbers. Forty-three were selected. Results: SC circulation was studied in 1196 patients to detect the great radicular artery: 522 by MR-angiography and 674 by CT angiography. Detection rates were 67-100% (mean 80.8%) with MR-angiography being 18-100% (mean 72%) with CT angiography. The side and level of the great radicular artery were consistent between the methods. Several authors tried to use the imaging results to guide clinical management. Conclusions: Non-invasive imaging of the SC blood supply allows preoperative definition of the vasculature in many, but not all, cases. The impact of these findings on clinical management is potentially beneficial but still uncertain. Further improvements in image acquisition and post-processing techniques are needed. Future studies need to be large enough to compensate for inter-individual variability in SC vasculature in health and disease; however, even a partial reduction of paraplegia rate offers a formidable motivation for further research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-577
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Aorta
  • Imaging
  • Paraplegia
  • Post-processing
  • Spinal cord ischaemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery


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