BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Our previous model of spinal cord injury (SCI) included six dogs undergoing 30-minute compression with a balloon in the subarachnoid space. We determined whether various balloon sizes and compression times creates a gradation of injuries.

METHODS: In 17 dogs (including our original six), angioplasty balloons 2, 4, or 7 mm in diameter (2 cm long) were inflated at T6 for 30, 120, or 240 minutes. T1- and T2-weighted, gadolinium-enhanced, and short-tau inversion recovery (STIR) MR images were obtained at 1.5 T. Spinal canal occlusion (SCO) was measured as balloon area-spinal cord area. Hematoxylin-eosin and beta amyloid precursor protein staining were performed to demonstrate hemorrhage and axonal injury, respectively. Injuries were scored as mild, moderate, or severe. Trends were assessed with one-way analysis of variance.

RESULTS: SCO was 12.5-20% for 2-mm balloons, 28-56% for 4 mm, and 62-82% for 7 mm. No abnormalities were seen with SCO <30%. T1- and T2-weighted images had the poorest diagnostic performance; STIR images were best for predicting hemorrhage and axonal injury. Hemorrhage was demonstrated more frequently than was axonal injury. SCO (P < .0001) and hemorrhage (P = .002) significantly increased with balloon size. Longer inflation times tended to increase injuries for a given size, but differences were not significant.

CONCLUSION: Compression injuries depended on the level of SCO. The compression times tested had less effect than the degree of compression. The value of 1.5-T MR imaging varied with the sequence and improved with contrast enhancement. STIR images showed SCIs not otherwise detected.