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Value of MRI in the cervical spine imaging series of trauma patients: A state-of-the-art review

Sarblah, S. R., Rachman, P., Antwi, W. K. , Anudjo, M. N. K., Ohene-Botwe, B. ORCID: 0000-0002-0477-640X & Akudjedu, T. N. (2024). Value of MRI in the cervical spine imaging series of trauma patients: A state-of-the-art review. Radiography, 30(3), pp. 1001-1013. doi: 10.1016/j.radi.2024.04.017


Introduction: Clinical decision protocols for evaluation and assessment of traumatic cervical spine injuries (TCSI) lean more towards the use of CT imaging. Investigation with MRI is therefore considered unnecessary following negative CT findings according to some local protocols. This review aims to explore what benefits MRI may offer in the clinical management of TCSI patients.

Methods: A systematic search of the literature was conducted in the following databases: AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE and MEDLINE using defined key terms and synonyms optimised for each database. The eligible articles were subjected to data extraction and thematic synthesis.

Results: The initial electronic search yielded 2527 articles. Of these, 15 articles remained following the application of a pre-defined inclusion criteria and full-text assessment. Four themes (mechanism of injury, type of patient, injuries detected on MRI, significance of injuries detected on MRI) were developed relating to the usage and value of MRI in the management of CSI.

Discussion: Our findings indicate that MRI may be very valuable in some situations for the evaluation of TCSI, however, its usage must be cautiously considered on a case-by-case basis in light of additional clinical benefit, patient safety and resource availability following a normal CT scan or in conjunction with CT or projection radiography where appropriate.

Implications for practice: MRI may serve as a confirmatory test in the management pathway of TCSI based on individual clinical needs. Consideration for key limitations (e.g., patients’ cooperation) and accessibility challenges (e.g., cost) against the clinical benefit to the patient must be noted. Development of centre-specific policies from standard trauma imaging protocols may be essential for the timely management of TCSI.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The College of Radiographers. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher Keywords: Trauma, Cervical Spine Injuries, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Computed Tomography
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
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