Cervical cordotomy for intractable pain: Do postoperative imaging features correlate with pain outcomes and mirror pain?

A. Berger*, M. Artzi, O. Aizenstein, T. Gonen, R. Tellem, U. Hochberg, D. Ben-Bashat, I. Strauss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Percutaneous cervical cordotomy offers relief of unilateral intractable oncologic pain. We aimed to find anatomic and postoperative imaging features that may correlate with clinical outcomes, including pain relief and postoperative contralateral pain. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We prospectively followed 15 patients with cancer who underwent cervical cordotomy for intractable pain during 2018 and 2019 and underwent preoperative and up to 1-month postoperative cervical MR imaging. Lesion volume and diameter were measured on T2-weighted imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Lesion mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy values were extracted. Pain improvement up to 1 month after surgery was assessed by the Numeric Rating Scale and Brief Pain Inventory. RESULTS: All patients reported pain relief from 8 (7-10) to 0 (0-4) immediately after surgery (P ¼.001), and 5 patients (33%) developed contralateral pain. The minimal percentages of the cord lesion volume required for pain relief were 10.0% on T2-weighted imaging and 6.2% on DTI. Smaller lesions on DWI correlated with pain improvement on the Brief Pain Inventory scale (r ¼ 0.705, P ¼.023). Mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy were significantly lower in the ablated tissue than contralateral nonlesioned tissue (P ¼.003 and P ¼.001, respectively), compatible with acute-phase tissue changes after injury. Minimal postoperative mean diffusivity values correlated with an improvement of Brief Pain Inventory severity scores (r ¼ -0.821, P ¼.004). The average lesion mean diffusivity was lower among patients with postoperative contralateral pain (P ¼.037). CONCLUSIONS: Although a minimal ablation size is required during cordotomy, larger lesions do not indicate better outcomes. DWI metrics changes represent tissue damage after ablation and may correlate with pain outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-800
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


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