Evaluation of L7-S1 nerve root pathology with low-field MRI in dogs with lumbosacral foraminal stenosis

Vera Lichtenhahn, Henning Richter, Thomas Gödde, Patrick Kircher
Vet Surg. 2020 Apr 27. doi: 10.1111/vsu.13424.

Objective: To describe low-field MRI findings associated with lumbosacral foraminal stenosis and radiculopathy and correlate these with clinical signs.

Study design: Retrospective study.

Animals: Client-owned dogs (n = 240) that underwent a clinical examination and standardized MRI protocol of the lumbosacral junction.

Methods: Medical records of dogs with degenerative lumbosacral stenosis with neurological clinical evaluation and MRI of the lumbosacral junction were used to describe imaging pathologies and relate them to clinical status.

Results: In total, 480 L7 neuroforamina were evaluated. A loss of foraminal fat signal was identified in 364 of 480 neuroforamina of which 87.9% (n=320) showed also concurrent nerve root changes. Magnetic resonance imaging features of L7 radiculopathy included nerve root enlargement and hyperintensity to surrounding connective tissue in dorsal oblique gradient echo short time inversion recovery sequences and specific changes in shape, size, or position of the nerve root in transverse T1-weighted sequences. Radiculopathy was noted as a consequence of either circumferential (entrapment) or focal (impingement) foraminal stenosis. Lateral vertebral spondylotic and intervertebral facet joint changes were the most common underlying spinal and neuroforaminal pathologies. Clinical signs were present in the ipsilateral hind leg in 85% (n = 65) of dogs with unilateral lumbosacral imaging findings.

Conclusion: A loss of foraminal fat signal was likely to be associated with L7 radiculopathy and foraminal stenosis. Unilateral lesions were generally associated with clinical signs on the ipsilateral limb.

Clinical significance: Loss of foraminal fat signal revealed by low-field MRI should prompt the assessment of concurrent radiculopathy and underlying stenosis, and in coherence with clinical findings, when is combined with clinical findings, improves the diagnosis of lumbosacral foraminal stenosis.

Small animal: