Purpose: To investigate modifications of Magnetic Resonance Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and Diffusion Kurtosis Imaging (DKI) metrics in lateral white matter (WM) bundles of the cervical spinal cord in patients with previous stroke in the vascular territory of the middle cerebral artery (MCA). Methods: Twenty consecutive patients with a previous ischemic stroke of the MCA territory and a varying degree of upper motor impairment were enrolled. DKI was centered at the C3C4 and C5C6 intervertebral level. Results: The fractional anisotropy (FA) values in C3C4 and C5C6 were found to be significantly lower in the lateral WM bundles contralateral to the ischemic lesion and thus, in the WM bundle including the affected corticospinal tract (CST) (p = 0.005 and p = 0.008, respectively), as well as mean kurtosis (MK) and axonal water fraction (AWF) values (p = 0.004 and p = 0.04. respectively). FA values correlated significantly with the Global Motor Index (GMI) both for C3C4 (ρ = 0.61, p = 0.004) and C5C6 (ρ = 0.69, p = 0.002). At C3C4, AWF correlated significantly with GMI (ρ = 0.54, p = 0.03). No correlations were found between lateral WM bundle volumes and GMI. Conclusion: A reduction of anisotropy and microstructural complexity in the affected lateral WM bundle of the cervical spinal cord was observed in patients with previous ischemic stroke involving the CST. The correlations between these metrics and motor performance were statistically significant.
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