recently, the diagnosis of scoliosis in children and adolescents required a series of X-rays of the full spine to measure the Cobb angle—the degree of curvature of the spine that could indicate a disorder. To monitor scoliosis progression or the effectiveness of treatment, these patients may also require up to 4-5 additional X-rays per year for a period of 3-5 years before the child reaches skeletal maturity.
Unfortunately, the use of repeated and numerous scoliosis X-rays on children have been linked to higher incidences of breast cancer, thyroid cancer and leukemia.1,2 Even today’s lower-dose radiographic techniques cannot eliminate long-term risk.
“It is widely known that young patients have higher radiosensitivity than adults, meaning that their organs are susceptible to damage from radiation and a greater risk of cancer later in life,” says Dr. Andrew Thierry, a musculoskeletal radiology specialist at Expert MRI. “It was clear to us that a safer test was needed during this critical point in their development.
The challenge for Dr. Thierry and his colleagues at Expert MRI was to find a way to use MRI—a superior imaging technique for spine imaging that doesn’t use iodizing radiation—for scoliosis testing. The problem is that most MRI systems image the patient while he or she is lying on their back, and scoliosis imaging requires the patient to be sitting or standing in an upright, weight-bearing position.
Their solution was to use upright MRI, an “open” MRI technology that is ideal for pediatric imaging because it does not require the child to be imaged in a small, confined tube-like space. The Expert MRI team began scanning children several years ago and have since refined the imaging technique and protocols into a practical, well-tolerated and inexpensive seven-minute test to accurately measure spine deformity.
“This is a real game changer, and I don’t use that term lightly,” adds Dr. Thierry. “In addition to being safer for kids, the MRI test is more precise and enables us to see the soft tissues surrounding the spine. This means we can evaluate related conditions such as muscle atrophy and the impact of the scoliosis on internal organs.”
Expert MRI is the only imaging center network in California to provide this innovative and safe scoliosis test. Doctors and parents are encouraged to specify this test instead of x-rays for children in need of both initial evaluation and ongoing progression monitoring of scoliosis.
“The kids don’t mind having this test at all,” Dr. Thierry adds. They get to sit and watch cartoons while they are in the scanner. And if the patient is very young, the MRI technology is so safe that a parent can even sit inside the machine with their child during the test.”
For more information about Expert MRI’s scoliosis imaging, please call (877) 674-8888.1. Doody M, Lonstein JE, Stovall M, Hacker DG, Luckyanov N, Land CE. Breast cancer mortality after diagnostic radiography: findings from the U.S. Scoliosis Cohort Study. Spine 25:2052-63, 2000. 2. Rao, PS, Gregg EC. A revised estimate of the risk of carcinogenesis from x-rays to scoliosis patients. Invest Radiol 19:58-60, 1984.