How does a neurosurgeon recognise cervical spinal stenosis?

X-ray image taken from the side

The neurosurgeon will listen to the patient’s story and conduct a thorough neurological examination, then perform some imaging tests. An X-ray image of the cervical spine taken from the side will generally show the narrowing of the spinal canal, as well as the presence of the bony ridges that may have caused the narrowing.

MRI of the lumbar spine

Generally, the first examination to be performed will be an MRI scan of the lumbar spine, which will typically show the abnormality in considerable detail. MRI scans are a very useful tool in that they provide an insight into the ratio between the spinal canal and the spinal cord. In normal persons, a thin layer of cerebrospinal fluid can be seen at the front and back of the spinal cord, which surrounds the cord like a moat surrounding a castle. If sufficient fluid can be detected in the scan, there is sufficient space within the spinal canal.

Normal person

Normal person

Person suffering from cervical spinal stenosis

Person suffering from cervical spinal stenosis

Diagnosis of a cervical spinal stenosis

In patients suffering from severe stenosis, the anterior bony ridges may reach the spinal cord and dent it. An MRI scan will show whether the compression of the patient’s spinal cord has damaged the cord (myelopathy).

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