Study design: Prospective study on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiographic findings of the cervical spine. Objective: To elucidate the age-related changes of the cervical spinal cord and the cervical spinal canal and the relationship between the spinal cord and the spinal canal in asymptomatic subjects using MRI and radiography. Setting: Tokyo, Japan. Methods: The transverse area of the cervical spinal cord and the ratio of the anteroposterior diameter to the transverse diameter (RAPT) were investigated, using MRI in 229 asymptomatic subjects. The sagittal spinal canal diameter and anteroposterior diameter of the cervical vertebral body were also measured on plain lateral radiographs. The canal body ratio (CBR), which was defined as the diameter of the spinal canal divided by that of the vertebral body, was calculated. Results: The transverse spinal cord area correlated negatively with age. RAPT did not correlate with age. The CBR correlated negatively with age. The correlation between spinal cord area and CBR was significant but weak and the correlation between RAPT and CBR was not significant. Conclusion: The transverse area of the cervical spinal cord measured by MRI decreased with age, while RAPT remained unchanged. The bony spinal canal became narrower with age. The spinal cord area and the shapes of the spinal cord were independent from the spinal canal diameter in asymptomatic subjects. These facts should be considered when evaluating radiological findings in patients with cervical spinal disorders.
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