Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between cerebral perfusion levels, Neck Disability Index (NDI) scores, and spinal joint fixations in patients with neck pain.
Methods: Forty-five adult patients (29 were female) with chronic neck/upper thoracic pain during exacerbation were studied. The subjects were grouped according to NDI scores: mild, moderate, and severe. The number of painful/blocked segments in the cervical and upper thoracic spine and costovertebral joints, pain intensity using the visual analog scale, and regional cerebral blood flow of the brain using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) were obtained. The SPECT was analyzed semiquantitatively. Analysis of variance tests were conducted on total SPECT scores in each of the NDI groups (P < .05). Univariate correlations were obtained between blockage, pain, and SPECT scores, as well as age and duration. A multivariate analysis was then conducted.
Results: Group 1 (mild) consisted of 14 patients. Cerebral perfusion measured by SPECT was normal in all 8 brain regions. Group 2 (moderate) consisted of 16 patients. In this group, a decrease in cerebral perfusion was observed (range, 20%-35%), predominantly in the parietal and frontal zones. Group 3 (severe) consisted of 15 patients. In this group, the decrease in cerebral perfusion observed was from 30% to 45%, again predominantly in the parietal and frontal zones. A significant difference was found between NDI groups (“moderate” and “severe” showed significantly greater hypoperfusion than “mild”). Total blockage score correlated with SPECT scores at r = 0.47, P = .001. In a multivariate analysis, NDI scores contributed 39% of the variance of SPECT scores.
Conclusion: In this group of patients with neck and/or upper back pain, NDI scores strongly predicted cerebral hypoperfusion. Spinal joint dysfunction may be involved via hyperactivity in the regional sympathetic nervous system.
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