Diskospondylitis is a well-recognized disease of the spine in dogs; however, acute cases can present a diagnostic challenge given the nonspecific nature of associated clinical signs and a delay in the appearance of characteristic radiographic findings.1–3 Diskospondylitis may be associated with severe morbidity and neurologic impairment if definitive diagnosis and initiation of appropriate antimicrobial treatment are delayed as a result of equivocal or normal radiographic findings in acute cases. Additionally, the severity of radiographic findings may correlate poorly with clinical signs in affected dogs, and chronic cases of diskospondylitis may be difficult to differentiate from healing cases or even from degenerative changes of the spine.1–3 Magnetic resonance imaging is the diagnostic modality of choice for infectious and inflammatory diseases of the spine in humans4 and may be a more sensitive imaging modality than survey radiography for detecting early pathological changes in dogs with diskospondylitis.
Magnetic resonance imaging findings for human patients with diskospondylitis have been well documented.5,6 In contrast, few reports1,7–9 of MRI findings in dogs with diskospondylitis are available in the veterinary literature. Moreover, a study10 comparing myelographic findings in 27 dogs with diskospondylitis did not find a significant difference in the degree of spinal cord compression between ambulatory and nonambulatory patients or a correlation between the degree of spinal cord compression and patient outcome. Therefore, reasons other than spinal cord compression alone, including concurrent meningitis or myelitis, should be investigated as the cause of neurologic dysfunction in patients with diskospondylitis. The increased sensitivity of MRI compared with contrast radiographic procedures may allow for a more accurate assessment of the number of disk spaces affected and the cumulative degree of spinal cord compression and for the identification of changes within the spinal cord parenchyma and meninges. The increased sensitivity of MRI in revealing areas of severe spinal cord impingement may encourage more aggressive surgical intervention, which may positively influence patient outcome. Finally, if a correlation exists between MRI findings in dogs with diskospondylitis and the severity of their neurologic deficits, this imaging modality may prove to have potential prognostic importance.
The purpose of the study reported here was to describe the signalment, clinical features, and MRI characteristics in a series of dogs with diskospondylitis. Secondary aims were to investigate whether certain MRI characteristics allow for the differentiation between acute and chronic diskospondylitis lesions and whether a correlation exists between the degree of spinal cord compression and the severity of neurologic deficits at the time of initial evaluation.
Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery
Gradient recalled echo
Short tau inversion recovery
1.0-T, Philips Medical Systems, Best, The Netherlands.
Magnevist, Berlex Laboratories Inc, Wayne NJ.
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