Exploring Transverse Myelitis Radiology: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Imaging

A rare neurological condition called transverse myelitis is characterized by inflammation of the spinal cord. To diagnose and comprehend this illness, radiology is essential. Transverse Myelitis Radiology will be covered in detail in this article, including its appearance on an MRI, differential diagnosis, and more.

Longitudinal Extensive Transverse Myelitis Radiology

A spinal cord condition known as longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis describes inflammation that extends across several vertebral segments. Several radiological methods, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can be used to observe this. The severe spinal cord involvement that frequently characterizes this form of transverse myelitis causes sensory and motor impairments. A vast area of the spinal cord is inflamed, which is the defining characteristic of longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis as shown by MRI images.

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Acute Transverse Myelitis Radiology

Inflammation of the spinal cord appears suddenly in acute transverse myelitis. The diagnosis of this illness depends heavily on radiology, particularly MRI. On T2-weighted MRI scans, acute transverse myelitis frequently manifests as hyperintense lesions. These changes in the spinal cord’s myelin suggest areas of inflammation and demyelination.

A study done by BMC Neurology on Acute Transverse Myelitis

This study on 85 idiopathic acute transverse myelitis (IATM) patients found a 13% conversion to multiple sclerosis (MS), with early-onset symptoms correlating to this conversion. Functional outcomes showed that only 9.4% faced walking difficulties. Urinary sphincter dysfunction and longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM) on MRI were linked to poorer outcomes.

The study highlights a 13% IATM to MS conversion rate, emphasizing the impact of early symptoms. Factors like urinary dysfunction and LETM predict poorer functional outcomes. These insights enhance understanding of IATM dynamics, MS conversion, and recovery factors.

Features of Transverse Myelitis on MRI

The spinal cord can be seen on an MRI, which is a useful technique for identifying anomalies linked to transverse myelitis. Hyperintense lesions on T2-weighted images are among the MRI’s distinctive features. The inflammation and demyelination that take place in the spinal cord’s afflicted regions are reflected in these lesions. Areas of active inflammation can also be found using gadolinium-enhanced MRI scans.

Hallmark of Transverse Myelitis

Inflammation of the spinal cord, particularly in the cord’s cross-sectional region, is the defining feature of transverse myelitis. In addition to pain, weakness, and a loss of bladder and bowel control, this causes sensory and motor deficits. This distinguishing characteristic must be confirmed using radiological imaging, particularly MRI.

Imaging of Acute Transverse Myelitis

Various imaging modalities are used to diagnose acute transverse myelitis, with MRI being the most useful. On T2-weighted imaging, acute lesions often show as hyperintense, but on T1-weighted images, they show as hypointense. Accurate diagnosis is aided by the location of these lesions along the spinal cord as well as clinical signs.

Difference Between NMO and Transverse Myelitis

Affected Areas:

  • Transverse Myelitis (TM): Primarily involves inflammation of the spinal cord.
  • Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO): Affects both the optic nerves and spinal cord.

Radiological Distinction:

  • Transverse Myelitis (TM): Typically lacks longitudinally extensive lesions.
  • Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO): Distinguished by the presence of longitudinally extensive lesions spanning three or more spinal segments.

For effective treatment planning, this difference is essential.

Differential Diagnosis for Transverse Myelitis

Differential diagnosis is crucial since transverse myelitis-like symptoms can occur in a number of different medical diseases. Multiple sclerosis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and spinal cord compression from tumors or ruptured discs should all be taken into account. Transverse myelitis can be distinguished from various other disorders using radiology, particularly MRI.

Diagnosing Transverse Myelitis

Diagnosing Transverse Myelitis involves a comprehensive approach:

  • Clinical assessment
  • Radiographic imaging
  • Lab tests
  • MRI scans to determine lesion severity and confirm spinal cord inflammation
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests supporting the diagnosis with elevated protein levels and increased white blood cells.

Common Site of Transverse Myelitis

There are several spinal cord segments that can be impacted by transverse myelitis. However, the most frequent site of involvement is the thoracic region. Radiological imaging aids in diagnosis and therapy planning by determining the precise location and degree of inflammation.

CSF Findings for Transverse Myelitis

Analyzing the cerebral spinal fluid is an important part of transverse myelitis diagnosis. Increased white blood cells and higher protein levels in the CSF can result from spinal cord inflammation. These findings help to provide a thorough diagnosis when they are paired with clinical and radiographic data.


How do you treat myelitis?

Treatment for myelitis often involves addressing the underlying cause and managing symptoms. This may include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, physical therapy for rehabilitation, and medications to alleviate pain or manage immune responses.

How is myelitis diagnosed?

Myelitis is diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history assessment, neurological examinations, and diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and lumbar puncture to analyze cerebrospinal fluid.

What are the diagnostic criteria for transverse myelitis?

The diagnostic criteria for transverse myelitis typically include the sudden onset of spinal cord inflammation, neurological symptoms, and evidence from imaging studies or cerebrospinal fluid analysis.

What drugs cause transverse myelitis?

Various drugs have been associated with transverse myelitis as a rare side effect. Some examples include certain vaccines, antibiotics, and antiviral medications. However, drug-induced cases are uncommon.

What virus causes myelitis?

Viruses such as enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus, and varicella-zoster virus are known to cause myelitis. Additionally, certain autoimmune responses triggered by infections can contribute to the development of transverse myelitis.

What is the difference between MS and transverse myelitis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause demyelination throughout the central nervous system. Transverse myelitis, on the other hand, is a neurological disorder characterized by inflammation specifically in the spinal cord. While transverse myelitis can be an initial symptom of MS, they are distinct conditions.

What is a differential diagnosis of transverse myelitis?

Conditions with similar symptoms to transverse myelitis include Guillain-Barré syndrome, spinal cord compression, and infections such as Lyme disease. Differential diagnosis is crucial for accurate treatment.

What type of disease is transverse myelitis?

Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder characterized by inflammation of the spinal cord, resulting in symptoms such as weakness, pain, and sensory disturbances. It is often considered an autoimmune condition.

How to differentiate between transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

While both transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome involve inflammation of the nervous system, transverse myelitis affects the spinal cord, causing sensory and motor issues, whereas Guillain-Barré primarily impacts peripheral nerves and can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis.

What kind of doctor treats transverse myelitis?

Neurologists, specifically those specializing in neuroimmunology or spinal cord disorders, often treat transverse myelitis. Rheumatologists or immunologists may also be involved in cases with autoimmune components.


Transverse myelitis must be diagnosed and understood using radiology, and MRI in particular. The distinguishing characteristics shown on imaging, such as spinal cord inflammation and hyperintense lesions on T2-weighted images, aid clinicians in correctly diagnosing and separating transverse myelitis from other illnesses. Clinical examination, radiographic imaging, and laboratory tests can all be integrated to help healthcare providers manage patients with this difficult neurological illness quickly and efficiently.

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