Kamath S, Venkatanarasimha N, Walsh MA, et al.
Skeletal Radiol 2008;37:397-404.
Muscle denervation results from a variety of causes including trauma, neoplasia, neuropathies, infections, autoimmune processes and vasculitis. Traditionally, the diagnosis of muscle denervation was based on clinical examination and electromyography. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers a distinct advantage over electromyography, not only in diagnosing muscle denervation, but also in determining its aetiology. MRI demonstrates characteristic signal intensity patterns depending on the stage of muscle denervation. The acute and subacutely denervated muscle shows a high signal intensity pattern on fluid sensitive sequences and normal signal intensity on T1-weighted MRI images. In chronic denervation, muscle atrophy and fatty infiltration demonstrate high signal changes on T1-weighted sequences in association with volume loss. The purpose of this review is to summarise the MRI appearance of denervated muscle, with special emphasis on the signal intensity patterns in acute and subacute muscle denervation.