Gun Keorochana, Cyrus E. Taghavi, Shiau-Tzu Tzeng, Kwang-Bok Lee, Jen-Chung Liao, Jeong Hyun Yoo, Jeffrey C. Wang

October 2010, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 1740 - 1745 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-010-1327-8

First Online: 21 February 2010

Posterior spinal ligament pathology is becoming increasingly recognized as a significant cause of low back pain. Despite the growing clinical importance of interspinous ligament degeneration in low back pain patients, formal reliability studies for the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluation of interspinous ligaments have not been performed. We proposed an MRI classification system for interspinous ligament degeneration and conducted a comprehensive reliability and reproducibility assessment. Fifty patients who had low back pain with or without leg discomfort (26 males and 24 females) with a mean age of 48.8 years (range 23–85 years) were studied. The classification for lumbar interspinous ligament degeneration was developed on the basis of the literature using mid-sagittal T1- and T2-weighted images. Three spine surgeons independently graded a total of 200 interspinous ligament levels. Intraobserver and interobserver reliability were assessed by kappa statistics. The frequency of disagreement was also identified. The intraobserver agreement was excellent in all readers (kappa range 0.840–0.901). The interobserver agreement was lower as expected, and was substantial to excellent (kappa range 0.726–0.818). Overall complete agreement was obtained in 87.8% of all interspinous ligament levels. A difference of 1, 2, and 3 grades occurred in 8.1, 3.0, and 1.1% of readings, respectively. This proposed MRI classification of interspinous ligament degeneration was simple, reliable, and reproducible. Its use as a standardized nomenclature in clinical and radiographic research may be recommended.

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