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Spine MRI – About the Exam

Mountain Medical performs MRI exams of the spine to show the anatomy of the vertebrae that make up the spine, as well as the discs, spinal cord and the spaces between the vertebrae through which nerves pass.

Currently, MRI is the most sensitive imaging exam of the spine in routine clinical practice.

MR imaging is performed to:

  • assess the spinal anatomy and alignment.
  • detect congenital anomalies of vertebrae or the spinal cord.
  • assess problems with intervertebral disc disease (degenerated, bulging or herniated) and intervertebral joint disease, both frequent causes of severe lower back pain and sciatica (back pain radiating into a leg).
  • assess compression of spinal cord and nerves.
  • help plan spinal surgical procedures, such as decompression of a pinched nerve or spinal fusion.
  • monitor changes in the spine after an operation, such as scarring or infection.
  • explore other possible causes of back pain (compression fracture, for example).
  • image spinal infection or tumors that arise in, or have spread to, the spine.
  • assess inflammation of the spinal cord or nerves.

What you can expect during a spine MRI:

  • You will be asked to lie on the examination table.
  • The table will start moving while your spine MRI is being performed.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning. Any motion, whether breathing or body movements, can lead to artifacts on the images.
  • MRI exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes.
  • The entire examination is usually completed within 45 minutes.

Learn how to prepare for a spine MRI.

Learn the benefits and risks of spine MRI.

Watch the MRI - What to Expect Video.