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The Nomenclature and Sectional Imaging Anatomy I: Dorsal Spinal Ligaments

Hayman, L. Anne; Fahr, Linda M.; Kuhns, Lawrence R.; Benedetti, Philip F.; Taber, Katherine H.

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Author Information

Department of Radiology (L. A. Hayman, L. M. Fahr, K. H. Taber), Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, Department of Radiology (L. R. Kuhns), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (L. A. Hayman, K. H. Taber), Herbert J. Frensley Center for Imaging Research (L. A. Hayman, K. H. Taber), Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, and Medford Radiological Group (P. F. Benedetti), Medford, Oregon, U.S.A. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. L. A. Hayman, Department of Radiology, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Rm. 150H, Houston, TX 77030-3498, U.S.A. E-mail:

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This article is the first in a series of three that organizes the complex anatomy of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spinal ligaments. It describes and color-codes the anatomy and nomenclature of the dorsal ligaments. The following articles will describe the ventral ligaments, and the capsular membranes and minor ligaments.

The increased detail seen on sectional imaging of the spine makes it important for radiologists to become familiar with ligamentous anatomy. The purpose of this article is to provide an organized and comprehensive review of spinal ligament anatomy and nomenclature. The reader can refer to the recent literature for descriptions of the imaging appearance of these ligaments (1–8). This paper describes the dorsal spinal ligaments (Figs. 1 and 2). It includes structures that are important in assessing spinal trauma and details concerning fibers that cannot yet be visualized directly on magnetic resonance (MR) (9–12). The latter may be clinically important in the etiology of pain and during spinal procedures that stimulate, anesthetize, or destroy spinal nerves.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
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Fig. 2
Fig. 2
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All of the information is presented in a graphic color-coded format appropriate for interpreting sagittal and axial scans (Figs. 1B and 2, respectively). The standardized nomenclature for the ligaments is taken from the 1998 International Terminologia Anatomica (13). For clarity, alternate names are provided when appropriate. While the dorsal ligaments have a relatively constant nomenclature, the terms “membrane” and “ligament” are often used in a confusing manner. For example, the paired, thin denticulate “ligaments” (once called the dentate ligaments) of the spinal cord would probably be better termed the denticulate “membranes.” They are an important landmark in cervical cordotomies for ablation of pain fibers (14). The posterior atlanto–occipital ligament has also been referred to as a membrane. The reader should note that continous fibers can be renamed several times. (In Fig. 1A, see the continuous green and blue bands.)

In summary, these color-coded schematics provide an easily understandable comprehensive summary of ligamentous anatomy. The authors believe that knowledge of the anatomy and nomenclature of the dorsal spinal ligaments will assist in understanding their clinical significance and communicating it to surgical colleagues.

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Index Terms: Spine, MR; Spine, CT; Spine, injuries; Spine, anatomy; Spinal, anesthesia

Cited By:

This article has been cited 2 time(s).

Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography
The Nomenclature and Sectional Imaging Anatomy II: Ventral Spinal Ligaments
Hayman, LA; Kuhns, LR; Benedetti, PF; Fahr, LM; Taber, KH
Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography, 24(4): 659-661.

PDF (3369)
Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography
The Nomenclature and Sectional Imaging Anatomy III: Capsular Membranes and Minor Spinal Ligaments
Hayman, LA; Benedetti, PF; Kuhns, LR; Fahr, LM; Taber, KH
Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography, 24(5): 824-827.

PDF (742)
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© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.



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