MRI scan – Lumbar spine

MRI scan – Lumbar spine

MRI scan – Lumbar spine

Alternative Names: Magnetic resonance imaging scan

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the lower (lumbar) spine uses, not X-rays, but strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of structural problems and abnormalities associated with the lower spine, spinal cord, and nerve roots in the spinal cord. It is used to investigate problems such as low back pain, weakness in the legs, and injuries to the spine. It helps doctors to diagnose e.g. disc herniation (discs that stick out between the bones of the spine and press on the nerve roots), fractured vertebrae, tumours, and arthritis (joint pain and swelling). An MRI scanner is a tunnel-like machine in which you lie while it takes a series of detailed images. A special dye (contrast media) may be injected into a vein in your arm to enhance the images; some people are allergic to this dye, which contains iodine. Because of the strong magnetic fields of the MRI, people with pacemakers and other implants, such as cochlear implants and artificial heart valves, cannot be scanned.

What is it?
An MRI scan of the lumbar spine (lower spine) is an imaging technique that uses a strong magnetic field, combined with radio waves, to create detailed images. MRI scans do not use X-ray radiation.

An MRI scan is done in a radiology facility, usually located in a hospital. It takes about an hour (sometimes longer) to perform.

Why is it done?
An MRI scan of the lower spine is done when investigating problems such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Spinal injuries

It is often done when considering diagnoses such as:

  • Disc herniation (where an intervetrebral disc protrudes and puts pressure on the nerve roots)
  • Fractured vertebrae (from an injury or osteoporosis)
  • Tumours (of bone, most commonly secondary spread from tumours elsewhere
  • Arthritis (joint pain and swelling involving the joints between the vertebrae).

What happens?

Before – how to prepare
You will need to sign a consent form, but no other special preparations are needed. Any jewellery, or other metal objects, should be removed.

During – how the test is done
You will need to lie within the MRI scanner – you lie on a couch with the tunnel-like scanner around you. It is essential that you lie very still while the machine takes a sequence of images. The machine may be quite noisy, and some people feel a little claustrophobic inside the “tunnel” but there is no pain or discomfort involved at all.

A special dye, called contrast media, may be injected into a vein in your arm, to enhance the images.

After the test
The initial results should be available within an hour or so, but detailed analysis and interpretation of the images may take longer.

Risks and Compilations
For most people there are no major risks associated with MRI, but the strong magnetic fields involved mean that people with pacemakers, or other implants (e.g. cochlear implants, artificial heart valves) cannot be scanned.

Some people are allergic to the dye/contrast media, which usually contains iodine.

Short Description
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the lower (lumbar) spine uses, not X-rays, but strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of structural problems and abnormalities associated with the lower spine, spinal cord, and nerve roots in the spinal cord.

Keywords
Magnetic resonance imaging scan, MRI, MRI scan, lumbar scan, lower spine MRI, lower spine MRI scan



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