There are a variety of diagnostic exams your doctor may recommend to determine the cause of your back and/or neck pain, as well as the type of treatment that may be appropriate for you.
What Is An MRI?
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a non-invasive technique for imaging that uses magnetic field and radio waves to create high-resolution, cross-sectional images of the body.
Why Do I Need An MRI?
Because they provide such exceptional detail, they are a very useful test for diagnosing conditions affecting not only the bones of the spine (vertebrae), but the discs, spinal cord and nerves and connective and other soft tissues.
How Is An MRI Done?
An MRI machine consists of a large magnet with a hollow tube running through it, called the bore. During the scan, you will lie on a table that slides into the "tunnel" of the bore. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain the correct position during imaging. Small devices capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed on or near the area of the body to be scanned. Some MRI units, called short-bore systems, are designed so that the magnet does not completely surround you; others are open on all sides.
Some MRI scans require that you ingest a contrast medium to help highlight interior structures. If a contrast material is needed, it will be done through an intravenous line inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. During the scan, you will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit and the radiologist and technologist will leave the room while the scan is underway and the images are being recorded.
An MRI scan may be done either at a hospital or outpatient facility, and is typically completed in less than an hour. MRI scans are painless; after the test you can resume your normal activities.
Are There Any Potential Risks Or Complications?
Because MRI uses low-energy, non-ionizing radio waves, there are no known risks or side effects. Since it uses no radiation, MRI scanning may be repeated with no known adverse effects.
However, please advise your doctor if you are pregnant, have asthma or allergies, a medical condition, or any implanted medical or electronic device. If you have a cardiac pacemaker, you cannot receive an MRI and should not enter an MRI area.
Before undergoing an MRI, please ask your doctor or a member of the office staff about any special pre- or post-exam instructions.