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Spine MRI – benefits and Risks


  • MRI is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not involve exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • MR images of the spine are clearer and more detailed than images obtained with other imaging methods. This detail makes MRI an invaluable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of many spinal conditions, including tumors. MRI is the best available modality to visualize nerves.
  • MRI enables the discovery of abnormalities that might be obscured by bone with other imaging methods.
  • The contrast material used in MRI exams is less likely to produce an allergic reaction than the iodine-based contrast materials used for conventional x-rays and CT.
  • MRI demonstrates abnormalities, injuries and diseases in the spinal region that may not be visualized with other imaging methods.
  • MRI is very useful for evaluating spinal injuries. It is especially helpful for diagnosing or ruling out acute compression of the spinal cord when the clinical examination shows muscle weakness or paralysis.
  • MRI is able to detect subtle changes in the vertebral column that may be an early stage of infection or tumor. The procedure is more sensitive than CT for evaluating tumors, abscesses and other soft tissue masses near the spinal cord.
  • MRI is the preferred technique in evaluating for potential complications of surgery, including bleeding, scarring, infection and re-appearance of a herniated disk.


  • The MRI examination poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed.
  • If sedation is used, there are risks of excessive sedation. The technologist or nurse monitors your vital signs to minimize this risk.
  • Although the strong magnetic field is not harmful in itself, implanted medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam.
  • There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected. Such reactions usually are mild and easily controlled by medication. If you experience allergic symptoms, a radiologist or other physician will be available for immediate assistance.