Fusion Assessment by MRI in Comparison With CT in Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion: A Prospective Study

David Kitchen, Prashanth J. Rao*, Mario Zotti, Richard Woodman, Matthew J. Sampson, Dale Allison, Kevin Phan, Michael Selby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
99 Downloads (Pure)


Study Design: Prospective cohort study. 

Objectives: To evaluate the role of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in evaluation of fusion status following anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) and compare agreement and confidence in assessing fusion or its absence on MRI to the current standard computed tomography (CT). 

Methods: A prospective follow up of patients undergoing surgery by 2 spine surgeons between 2012 and 2015 at a single institution. Fusion was assessed at different time points in these patients by 2 independent musculoskeletal radiologists. Fusion was analyzed in coronal and sagittal planes using both imaging modalities, with confidence being attributed on a scale of 0 to 3. Assessors were blinded to patient data. 

Results: Fourteen patients (25 levels) with mean follow-up of 10.2 months (range 2.4-20.3 years) and age of 41 years (range 20.7-61.5 years) were assessed. MRI within the interbody cage in coronal (κ =.58) and sagittal (κ =.50) planes had the highest interobserver agreement. CT anterior to the cage in coronal (κ =.48) and sagittal (κ =.44) planes, as well as within the cage in coronal (κ =.50) and sagittal planes (κ =.44) showed moderate agreement. Confidence anterior to the interbody cage using MRI scan was reduced when compared with remaining angles and imaging modalities. 

Conclusions: The study demonstrates that MRI may be a useful tool in the assessment of fusion following ALIF with results comparable to CT, and that it may have a useful role in select patients especially considering marked radiation exposure reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-592
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


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