Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Spine
An MRI is a
test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make
pictures of the
spine. In many cases, an MRI gives different information
ultrasound, or a
CT scan. An MRI also may show
problems that cannot be seen with other imaging tests.
MRI, your body is placed inside a machine that contains a strong
magnet. Pictures from an MRI can be saved and
stored on a computer for further study. In some cases, a
contrast material may be used during the MRI to
show certain parts of the body more clearly.
The MRI can find changes in the spine and in other tissues. It also can find problems
such as infection or a tumor. MRI can look at the spine in the neck (cervical), upper back (thoracic), or lower back (lumbosacral). The
entire spine can be seen in one series of pictures to find a tumor. More
detailed pictures of one area, such as the lumbar spine, may be taken.
MRI may be used to check low
- Low Back Pain: Should I Have an MRI?
You may be able to have an MRI with an open machine that doesn't enclose your entire body. But open MRI machines aren't available everywhere. The pictures from an
open MRI may not be as good as those from a standard MRI machine .
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Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
Low Back Pain: Should I Have an MRI?
Why It Is Done
An MRI of
the spine is done to:
- Find problems of the
spinal discs, such as a ruptured disc. The test may
also show if a disc is pressing on a nerve, causing symptoms such as
- Find areas of the spine where
the canal is abnormally narrowed (spinal stenosis) and may need surgery.
tumors affecting the bones or nerves of the spine. The
tumors that most commonly spread to the spine include those from
prostate, breast, or lung cancer.
- Find compression fractures of the spine.
areas of joint inflammation (arthritis) or bone loss found during an
X-ray test or a
- Find areas of the spine that do
not have good blood supply.
- Find an infection.
nerve damage caused by injury or disease, such as
- Check problems of the
spine that have been present since birth (congenital).
An MRI may be done using contrast material to see abnormal
tissue more clearly. The contrast material also may help tell the difference between
old surgical scars and a new disease or injury.