Magnetic resonance imaging analysis of the upper cervical spine extensor musculature in an asymptomatic cohort: An index of fat within muscle

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Aim: To establish a simple method to quantify muscle/fat constituents in cervical muscles of asymptomatic women using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to determine whether there is an age effect within a defined age range. Materials and methods: MRI of the upper cervical spine was performed for 42 asymptomatic women aged 18-45 years. The muscle and fat signal intensities on axial spin echo T1-weighted images were quantitatively classified by taking a ratio of the pixel intensity profiles of muscle against those of intermuscular fat for the rectus capitis posterior major and minor and inferior obliquus capitis muscles bilaterally. Inter- and intra-examiner agreement was scrutinized. Results: The average relative values of fat within the upper cervical musculature compared with intermuscular fat indicated that there were only slight variations in indices between the three sets of muscles. There was no significant correlation between age and fat indices. There were significant differences for the relative fat within the muscle compared with intermuscular fat and body mass index for the right rectus capitis posterior major and right and left inferior obliquus capitis muscles (p=0.032). Intraclass correlation coefficients for intraobserver agreement ranged from 0.94 to 0.98. Inter-rater agreement of the measurements ranged from 0.75 to 0.97. Conclusion: A quantitative measure of muscle/fat constituents has been developed, and results of this study indicate that relative fatty infiltration is not a feature of age in the upper cervical extensor muscles of women aged 18-45 years. © 2005 The Royal College of Radiologists. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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