• cat;
  • dog;
  • magnetic resonance imaging;
  • paraspinal infection

The magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings in 22 dogs and two cats with confirmed paraspinal infection of the thoracolumbar spine were characterized. These findings included extensive T2-hyperintense areas (24/24), abscessation (20/24), mild inherent T1-hyperintensity of muscle and abscesses (18/24), and postcontrast enhancement (24/24). Changes involved the vertebral canal in four patients. The longus coli muscles were affected in one cat. Thoracolumbar changes in the remaining 23 patients involved the iliopsoas and epaxial muscles in 23/23 and 19/23 patients, respectively. Iliopsoas muscle abscessation was unilateral in 12/23, and bilateral in 6/24 patients. Abscessation involved both epaxial and iliopsoas muscles in 2/23 patients and the epaxial muscles alone in one patient. A contrast-enhancing sinus tract within the deep thoracolumbar fascia was present in 10/23 patients. Lumbar vertebrae periosteal reactions were identified in 19/23 patients on MR images compared with 15/17 patients with radiography. A focal area of signal void suspected to represent foreign material was seen in 5/23 patients but foreign material was actually found in only two of these five. There was no recurrence of clinical signs following MR imaging and revision surgery. MR imaging permits the severity and extent of changes associated with paraspinal infection to be characterized and allows the location, number and any communication of sinus tracts to be documented.