What the Doctor is Looking for in a Spine MRI

What the Doctor is Looking for in a Spine MRI

by Yenny (SU)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology was developed in the 1980s, and it has quickly become a valuable diagnostic tool for identifying many conditions and injuries. Using a powerful magnetic field, this technology uses radio frequency waves, allowing physicians to get a detailed view of the inside of the human body, and capture images of a patient’s organs, soft tissues, bones, and other internal body structures.

Today, MRIs have revolutionized an orthopedic surgeon’s ability to accurately diagnose back pain that commonly effects the lumbar spine (low back pain). Physicians use diagnostic imaging testing, specifically MRI scans, which allow them to assess a patient’s spinal anatomy, to investigate and discover the actual cause of the patient’s back pain. Based on the results, the physician will correlate the findings on the MRI scan with the patient’s signs and symptoms of back pain, in order to arrive at a clinical diagnosis and provide proper treatment.

A spine MRI specifically examines the different regions of your spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal). The lumbar region of the spine, known as the lower back, is where back problems most commonly occur. As well, the MRI will show the spine specialist the bones, discs, spinal cord, and the spaces between the vertebral bones where nerves pass through.

Your doctor may recommend an MRI to better diagnose or treat problems with your spine. Injury-related pain, disease, infection, or other factors could be causing your condition. Your doctor might order a spine MRI if you have the following symptoms:

·       Injury to your lower spine

·       Persistent or severe lower back pain

·       Weakness, numbness, or other problems with your legs

While an MRI scan can display an accurate representation of a patient’s spinal anatomy, it cannot distinguish between what structures in the spine may have pain. For example, for a patient suffering from severe back pain, the MRI scan may reveal any anatomical problems that could be causing the pain, when compared to a normal and healthy spine. Quite often, MRI scans are needed when conservative treatments such as physical therapy and medications are not working, and more aggressive back pain treatments (i.e., injections or surgery) are discussed to relieve your back-pain symptoms.

The findings and results from MRI scans do not determine a diagnosis on their own. Along with the MRI, the doctor will conduct a physical exam and other diagnostic measures to determine the patient’s back pain symptoms to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes a CT scan or electromyogram (EMG) can offer additional information about structural changes and nerve function, in conjunction with the MRI results.

Spinal MRIs can be used to make an informed treatment decision, sometimes to definitively consider either non-surgical or surgical options going forward. Your doctor might also order a spine MRI if it is determined that you may need spinal surgery, where the MRI will help them plan the procedure.

At Advanced Bone & Joint we treat the following conditions, and can use MRI technology to provide accurate diagnoses and proper treatment.

·       Degenerative Disc Disease

·       Facet Joint Syndrome

·       Herniated Discs

·       Herniated Disc - Cervical

·       Cervical Myelopathy (Spinal Cord Compression)

·       Cervical Radiculopathy (Nerve Compression)

·       Sciatica

·       Spinal Stenosis

·       Slipped Vertebrae (Spondylolisthesis)

Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays and MRI are often an integral part of determining and treating the cause for many painful conditions, including back pain. For millions of Americans, back pain can be greatly reduced or eliminated with simple solutions that do not require surgery. At Advanced Bone & Joint, we know what to look for and how to treat it. To learn more about our diagnostic imaging methods, please call our office in St. Peters or O’Fallon, MO at (636) 229-4222 or use our secure online appointment request form.