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Preoperative Thoracic Spine Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Spinal Cord Stimulation: Should Such a Recommendation Be an Absolute Requirement? Neuromodulation 2022 Jul;25(5):758-762



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85112261874 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   1 Citation


OBJECTIVE: Current published guidelines recommend advanced imaging, specifically, thoracic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), prior to implantation of epidural paddle spinal cord stimulator (SCS) leads. Preoperative imaging may affect surgical approach to minimize risk of complications. We aimed to assess the impact of preoperative thoracic MRI on surgical planning in a large series of surgical paddle SCS lead placements in a real-world setting.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This is a retrospective study of a prospectively maintained data‚ÄČbase of 160 patients treated by SCS with awake thoracic surgical paddle lead placement in a single academic functional neurosurgery center from 2013 to 2021. All patients had a thoracic MRI prior to implantation. Abnormal MRI findings were reviewed to determine their potential impact on the safety of surgical paddle lead placement. A minor impact was defined as anatomical areas to avoid with paddle lead placement. Major impacts included significant deviations from standard approach to electrode placement.

RESULTS: None of the 160 patients had signs or symptoms referable to thoracic spine pathology prior to lead implant. Sixty-seven had abnormal thoracic MRI findings, and 36 had abnormal MRI findings that impacted surgical planning. Thirty-one patients had MRI findings with minor impact. Five patients (more than 3%) had findings with major impact.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest case series assessing the impact of preoperative thoracic MRI on surgical planning for patients undergoing paddle SCS placement. Twenty-two percent of patients had MRI findings that impacted surgical planning with 3% requiring additional surgical decompression for safe paddle lead placement. Without advanced imaging to inform surgical planning, unnecessary risk may have been placed on these patients. Although such imaging has been recommended by consensus committees in published guidelines, our study is the first to present a large institutional experience of real-world data that demonstrates its importance.

Author List

Best BJ, Porwal MH, Pahapill PA


Peter A. Pahapill MD, PhD Associate Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Electrodes, Implanted
Epidural Space
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Retrospective Studies
Spinal Cord
Spinal Cord Stimulation