MR intensity measurements of nondenervated muscle in patients following severe forearm trauma
Fluid increases resulting in higher MRI signal intensities in T2-weighted and short tau inversion recovery (STIR) sequences can be used to diagnose nerve injury. By comparing the signal intensities over time, MRI may become a new method for monitoring the healing process. Muscle edema is assessed by comparing the signal intensity of affected muscle with that of nonaffected muscle. However, in severe forearm trauma, the signal of nondenervated muscle may also be increased by wound edema, thus masking the effect of denervation. Hence, the purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of wound edema on muscle signal intensity in 29 consecutive patients examined on a 1.5-T MRI scanner at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after severe forearm trauma. The long-term course of wound edema and the influence of wound distance were thus investigated using a standardized imaging, calibration and post-processing protocol. The signal intensities of nondenervated intrinsic hand muscles were measured in the affected and contralateral sides. Muscle signal intensities were increased on the trauma side at 1 and 3 months (18% and 7.4%, respectively; p<0.001) and normalized thereafter. In the contralateral hand, no significant signal changes were seen. No relationship was found between wound distance and the severity of wound edema. This study shows that wound edema influences muscle signal intensity comparisons in patients with forearm trauma. When comparing denervated muscle with nondenervated muscle, an additional scan of the contralateral side is indicated during the first 6 months after trauma to assess the extent of wound edema. After 6 months, the ipsilateral side can be used for muscle signal intensity comparisons.