Barakat et al. published a case study in 2012 about using diffusion tensor imaging in a pediatric transverse myelitis patient. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose transverse myelitis. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is another imaging technique that can be used to assess the spinal cord. It looks at the diffusion of water molecules in the spinal cord and can identify white matter, differentiate between white and grey matter, and identify damaged areas of the spinal cord.
The authors used DTI to look at the spinal cord of a seven-year-old with transverse myelitis, and compared his results with those of healthy controls and with others with traumatic spinal cord injuries. The child’s initial MRI showed an area of myelitis, but after several years and some recovery, the child’s MRI looked normal. DTI of his spinal cord did pick up abnormalities that were different from both the control group and the SCI group though, which the authors note indicates how sensitive DTI is. Furthermore, the patient’s DTI results were significantly different from the results of those with traumatic SCI, once again showing the sensitivity of the imagine technique. They argue that DTI paired with standard MRI could be used to make quicker and more accurate TM diagnoses.