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Neuromuscular Thermography of the Lumbar Spine with CT Correlation

CHAFETZ, NEIL, MD*; WEXLER, CHARLES, MD; KAISER, JAY A., MD*,‡

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Fifteen asymptomatic volunteers and 19 patients with current CT (GE 8800 CT/T) scans demonstrating either thecal sac contour distortion or nerve root displacement from disc rupture or spinal stenosis of the L4-L5 or L5-S1 levels judged to be at least moderate in severity underwent lumbar thermography. All patients were studied with an infrared telethermographic unit (AGA model 720M) employing the technical standards recommended by the Academy of Neuromuscular Thermography. The thermographic exams were interpreted independently and in a blind fashion by two radiologists. Of the 15 exams of symptomatic patients, six were interpreted as positive and consistent with nerve fiber irritation. Of the 19 exams of patients with demonstrated CT abnormalities, all had positive thermograms for nerve fiber irritation (specificity 60%, sensitivity 100%). It is concluded that lumbar thermography is a sensitive examination for detecting those patients who will demonstrate lumbar spinal CT abnormalities and should play an important role in the diagnostic screening of low-back pain syndrome patients.

*From the Department of Radiology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California

†From the Department of Encino, California, San Francisco, California

‡From the Department of Parnassus Radiology, San Francisco, California.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.