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PURPOSE: This study sought to quantify the frequency of previously unidentified spinal cord anomalies identified by routine preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in patients planned for surgical scoliosis correction. METHODS: Our study group comprised 206 patients with idiopathic scoliosis who underwent deformity correction from 1998 to 2008. Clinical records of all the patients were retrospectively reviewed to ascertain the proportion having a neural abnormality on preoperative MRI scan. RESULTS: Twenty of 206 patients (9.7 %) were diagnosed with an unexpected intraspinal anomaly on routine preoperative MRI. In all cases, a neurosurgical opinion was sought prior to further intervention. Of the 20 patients, 11 underwent a neurosurgical procedure (de-tethering of cord, decompression of Chiari, decompression of syrinx). There was no statistically significant difference between the group of patients who had intrinsic spinal cord anomalies on preoperative MRI and those did not have a cord abnormality with regard to age at presentation, gender, side of dominant curve and degree of curve (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: The high frequency of spinal cord abnormalities unidentified by preoperative neurological examination, and the frequent need for subsequent neurosurgical intervention, suggests that MRI assessment prior to deformity correction is important in the management of idiopathic scoliosis.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur spine j

Publication Date





355 - 359


Arnold-Chiari Malformation, Child, Decompression, Surgical, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Neurologic Examination, Preoperative Care, Retrospective Studies, Scoliosis, Spine, Syringomyelia