Ordered if neck pain persists for 4 to 6 weeks, radicular pain does not subside with treatments, or more severe deficit suggestive of myelopathy is present. This would normally be the primary study ordered from the office setting once these criteria are met.
MRI is also indicated for patients with neck pain and a history of malignancy, prior cervical spine surgery, or if there is suspicion for infection.
bone destruction, spinal cord or nerve compression, intradural or epidural pathology
Indicated for patients with severe neck pain, chronic neck pain, or pain with a history of trauma or neck surgery (recent or previous). Flexion/extension radiographs have limited value in degenerative disease.
presence of degenerative joint disease or degenerative disk disease, malalignment, spinal canal stenosis, fracture, or instability
An extension to cervical radiographs to obtain more detail about bone structure, such as in ossified posterior longitudinal ligament calcification, trauma setting, or instability.
Also indicated if an MRI is not possible (e.g., implanted metal).
bone destruction, spinal cord or nerve compression; intradural or epidural pathology
If a cervical CT scan with no contrast suggests spinal cord abnormalities and an MRI is not possible, then the next step is a CT cervical spine scan with intrathecal contrast (CT myelography) to obtain more detail about spinal cord and nerve changes.
Primarily indicated only if an MRI is not possible (e.g., implanted metal).
presence of disk herniation or nerve root compression
Ordered if brachial plexopathy, peripheral neuropathy, or peripheral nerve compression suspected, or mimicking radiculopathy or myelopathy.
Electromyography or nerve conduction velocity is a negative diagnostic test in cervical myelopathy, as nerve studies primarily demonstrate lower motor neuron changes. In degenerative cervical myelopathy, the neurologic abnormalities arise from spinal cord compression and upper motor neuron dysfunction.
may show changes of muscle denervation; localizes the problem to the root or reveals changes in keeping with peripheral nerve entrapment
Ordered when specific nerve root involved with radiculopathy cannot be clinically or radiologically determined.
positive test if nerve block relieves patient's radicular pain temporarily; localizes single nerve root
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