While x-rays are likely the most well-known imaging technique, the MRI is oftentimes more reliable in helping figure out the true nature of a person’s spine pain. But why exactly would a spine specialist order an MRI, and what can they see with the help of this imaging technique? We explain why an MRI is so helpful for diagnosing and treating spine injuries in today’s blog.
Why A Spinal MRI Is Performed
A spinal MRI is a safe and painless procedure that is performed to look for the presence of a number of different spinal conditions. Unlike X-rays, an MRI does not involve radiation and it can provide images of more structures, making it a perfect diagnostic tool for a variety of complex spinal problems. The machine uses radio waves to manipulate the magnetic positions of atoms in the body, which are then picked up by an antenna and transmitted to a computer where an image is generated. These images can even be used to reconstruct 3-D pictures of the scanned area, providing an even more detailed look into the body.
A spinal MRI may be ordered to look for the presence of a number of conditions, but some of the most common reasons its ordered are to look for:
- Spinal disc problems
- Vertebral fractures or shifting
- Nerve compression
- Degenerative changes
- Spinal cord compression or issues
- The presence of a tumor
- Bleeding and swelling
- General structure abnormalities
How Is A Spinal MRI Performed?
Unless a specific type of contrast dye needs to be used, there is no special preparation needed in order to undergo a spinal MRI. Patients will be asked to remove any metal objects like eyeglasses or jewelry prior to the MRI because they can interfere with the scan. You then may be asked to change into a gown or similar type of dressing before you lay down on the MRI table.
You will then be guided into an opening in what can best be described as a large metal donut. This metal ring will begin to take scans of your spine, each of which take a couple of minutes. In all, a spinal MRI typically takes between 30-60 minutes. During this time, it’s imperative that you remain still inside the machine so that the clearest images can be generated. The machine can also be noisy while it’s running, so expect some noise during the exam and ask your MRI technician if earplugs are available if you believe the noise may be an issue.
Once the MRI is complete, the table you’re on will be removed from the machine and you’ll be able to change back into your normal clothes. In most instances, you will not have your results interpreted at the same appointment. Oftentimes a radiologist will review the images and send a report to your spine specialist or doctor, who will then explain the results to you. This whole process typically takes a day or two, but it can also be adjusted in the event of an emergency.
From there, your spine specialist will make a plan to help you overcome whatever ailment the MRI revealed. So if you are dealing with persistent back pain or a spinal issue that has failed to resolve with conservative treatment, contact Dr. Sinicropi’s office and see if an MRI can help you get to the bottom of your pain. For more information, contact his office today at (651) 430-3800.