We tested the hypothesis that whiplash trauma leads to changes of the signal intensity of cervical discs in T2-weighted images.
Methods and materials
50 whiplash patients (18–65 years) were examined within 48 h after motor vehicle accident, and again after 3 and 6 months and compared to 50 age- and sex-matched controls. Signal intensity in ROI's of the discs at the levels C2/3 to C7/T1 and the adjacent vertebral bodies were measured on sagittal T2 weighted MR images and normalized using the average of ROI's in fat tissue. The contrast between discs and both adjacent vertebrae was calculated and disc degeneration was graded by the Pfirrmann-grading system.
Whiplash trauma did not have a significant effect on the normalized signals from discs and vertebrae, on the contrast between discs and adjacent vertebrae, or on the Pfirrmann grading. However, the contrast between discs and adjacent vertebrae and the Pfirrmann grading showed a strong correlation. In healthy volunteers, the contrast between discs and adjacent vertebrae and Pfirrmann grading increased with age and was dependent on the disc level.
We could not find any trauma related changes of cervical disc signal intensities. Normalized signals of discs and Pfirrmann grading changed with age and varied between disc levels with the used MR sequence.