Minor Structural Differences in the Cervical Spine Between Patients With Cervical Dystonia and Age-Matched Healthy Controls


Background: Cervical dystonia is the most common form of focal dystonia. The frequency and pattern of degenerative changes of the cervical spine in patients with cervical dystonia and their relation to clinical symptoms remain unclear as no direct comparison to healthy controls has been performed yet. Here, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate (1) whether structural abnormalities of the cervical spine are more common in patients with cervical dystonia compared to age-matched healthy controls, (2) if there are clinical predictors for abnormalities on MRI, and (3) to calculate the inter-rater reliability of the respective radiological scales.

Methods: Twenty-five consecutive patients with cervical dystonia and 20 age-matched healthy controls were included in the study. MRI scans of the cervical spine were analyzed separately by three experienced raters blinded to clinical information, applying different MRI rating scales. Structural abnormalities were compared between groups for upper, middle, and lower cervical spine segments. The associations between scores differentiating both groups and clinical parameters were assessed in dystonia patients. Additionally, inter-rater reliability of the MRI scales was calculated.

Results: Comparing structural abnormalities, we found minor differences in the middle cervical spine, indicated by a higher MRI total score in patients but no significant correlation between clinical parameters and MRI changes. Inter-rater reliability was satisfying for most of the MRI rating scales.

Conclusion: Our results do not provide evidence for a role of MRI of the cervical spine in the routine work-up of patients with cervical dystonia in the absence of specific clinical signs or symptoms.



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