MRI May Not Explain Long-Term Whiplash Pain

Study finds no significant correlation between neck pain and progression in MRI findings

FRIDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Although some patients with whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) continue to experience neck pain in the long term, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may not explain their symptoms, according to a study in the Aug. 15 issue of Spine.

In a prospective 10-year follow-up study, Morio Matsumoto, M.D., of Keio University in Tokyo, and colleagues evaluated 133 WAD patients and 223 controls to assess the long-term impact of whiplash injury on patients' symptoms and on MRI findings of the cervical spine.

The investigators found that progression of decrease in signal intensity occurred in 109 WAD patients (82.0 percent) and 132 controls (59.2 percent), and posterior disc protrusion was found in 101 WAD patients (75.9 percent) and 155 controls (69.5 percent). In addition, disc space narrowing occurred in 33 WAD patients (24.8 percent) and 59 controls (26.5 percent), with foraminal stenosis occurring in six WAD patients (4.5 percent) and 20 controls (9.0 percent). While neck pain occurred in 34 WAD patients (25.6 percent) and 22 controls (9.9 percent), no statistically significant correlation was found between neck pain and progression in each MRI finding among WAD patients or controls. The authors concluded that, although some WAD patients have an increased risk of long-lasting neck pain, MRI findings may not explain the symptoms.

"Whiplash injury may not significantly accelerate the symptomatic structural deterioration of the cervical spine during a 10-year period following injury," the authors write.

The study was supported by the General Insurance Association of Japan, with two authors disclosing financial ties to the organization. In addition, one or more authors disclosed financial ties to commercial organizations related directly or indirectly to the subject of this study.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

Physician's Briefing