Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Spine
Metal parts in the eyes can damage the
retina. If you may have metal fragments in the eye, an
X-ray of the eyes may be done before the MRI. If metal is found, the MRI will
not be done.
Iron pigments in tattoos or tattooed eyeliner can
cause skin or eye irritation.
An MRI can cause a burn with some
medicine patches. Be sure to tell your health professional if you are wearing
There is a slight risk of an
allergic reaction if contrast material is used during
the MRI. But most reactions are mild and can be treated using medicine. There
also is a slight risk of an infection at the IV site.
radiologist may discuss some of the results of the MRI
with you right after the test. Complete results are usually ready for your
doctor in 1 to 2 days.
MRI of the spine
| Normal: |
The bones of the spine, discs, and nerves
No tumors, inflammation, or areas of nerve
damage in the spine are present.
No disease or bone loss in the spine is present.
No ruptured discs are present. There are no
structures pressing on a nerve.
No structural problems that have been
present from birth (congenital problems) are found.
Tumors, inflammation, or areas of nerve
damage in the spine are present. A disease of the spinal cord, such as
multiple sclerosis, is found.
Narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) is present.
Broken bones or bone loss in the spine
caused by injury or disease, such as
arthritis, is found.
One or more
discs of the spine are bulging or ruptured or pressing
on a nerve.
A condition that has been present from
birth (congenital condition) is found in the spine or the
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- Pregnancy. An MRI test usually is not done
- Medical devices that use electronics, such as a
pacemaker or medicine infusion pump. The MRI magnet may cause problems with
these devices, and that may keep you from having an MRI.
- Medical devices that have metal in them. The metal might make
some of the detailed MRI pictures blurry. This may prevent your doctor from
seeing the organ that is being looked at. For example, any metal in your spine
may prevent your doctor from seeing it clearly.
- Inability to remain
still during the test.
- Obesity. A
person who is very overweight may not fit into standard MRI machines.
Many modern medical devices that do not use
electronics—such as heart valves, stents, or clips—can be safely placed in most
MRI machines. But some newer MRI machines have stronger magnets. The safety of
MRI scans with these stronger MRI magnets in people with medical devices is not