Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Spine

What is an MRI of the Spine?

An MRI of the spine is the diagnostic imaging of spinal structures by using radio waves and magnetism to produce high resolution three-dimensional images of the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine and other surrounding tissues.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

An MRI of the spine is most commonly used to assess arthritic changes or trauma, or to diagnose cancer, herniated disks, Chiari malformations, cervical myopathy or radiculopthy.

How should I prepare for the procedure?

There is no special preparation required for an MRI of the spine.  Food and fluid intake do not need to be restricted.

Please inform your physician or technologist if you are claustrophobic, or if you have a pacemaker, aneurysm clips or any metallic implants.  You should also inform your physician or technologist if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant.

What will I experience during the procedure?

Once you arrive in the MRI department, you will be asked to change into a gown and to remove any jewelry or metallic objects.  A technologist or nurse may start an IV, so that a contrast media can be administered during your scan if necessary.  You will be asked to lie on your back on a sliding MRI table that allows the technologist to move you into the MRI machine.  You will be asked to hold very still for the duration of the exam, which usually takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  If a total spine is being imaged, the exam could take up to 3 hours.  You may experience a cool sensation if any contrast is injected into your veins, and your body may feel an overall warmth as the scan is performed.  The MRI machine will make a series of loud, repetitive knocking sounds.  The technologist will offer you foam earplugs or a stereo headset to mask the noise.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

The radiologist will interpret the exam, and a signed report will be sent to your physician who will discuss the results with you.