The MRI (Magnetic Resonance
Imaging) scan is the most common test used to look at the spine. The
MRI scanner uses magnetic waves instead of radiation. Imagine if you
could slice through the spine layer by layer and take pictures of
each slice. That is exactly what the MRI scanner allows us to do.
Multiple pictures of the spine are taken by the MRI scanner. This
allows us to view not only the bones of the spine, but also the nerves
Slices can also be taken across the spine, giving a cross sectional
view. The MRI scanner allows us to see the nerves and disk quite
clearly. No special dyes or needles are necessary.
The MRI scan is, perhaps, too good at showing the anatomic details
of the spine. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests
that not all abnormalities that show up on the MRI scan are really
the cause of the individual patient's problem. Abnormalities, such
as bulging disks, show up frequently in normal volunteers undergoing
MRI scans - people who have never had any problem with their back.
The bottom line is this - an MRI scan is a great test to show the
lumbar spine anatomy, but it must be correlated carefully with your
symptoms so that the findings aren't blown out of proportion.
Ruptured Disc Side View
Ruptured Disc Top View
Further information can be found at:
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) Scanning information produced by medical doctors
Lumbar disc high-intensity
zone. Correlation of magnetic resonance imaging and discography.