MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which is a non-invasive diagnostic method used by physicians in the identification and treatment of medical conditions. An MRI lumbar spine is simply an MRI scan used for the purpose of diagnosing lumbar spine disorders.
MRI involves the use of a computer, a strong magnetic field and radio waves that work together to produce a 3-dimensional image of body organs, bones, soft tissues, and other internal structures of the body. In the case of an MRI lumbar spine, the images produced are that of the lumbar spine area or the lower back. MRI does not involve the use of radiation like in x-rays.
An MRI lumbar spine gives a physician greater detail of the affected area so they can better assess the exact disorder and the extent of damage. The images produced by an MRI scan are much more detailed than results produced by other methods of imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound or CT (computed tomography) scan.
An MRI lumbar spine will show the spine’s anatomy including the discs, spinal cord as well as the spaces in between the inter-vertebral bones through which nerves run. MRI is the most precise imaging method of the spine that is used in present clinical practices.
A doctor can use an MRI lumbar spine to evaluate the anatomy of the patient’s spine and see any variations in the normal spinal structures and detect diseased tissues in the spine.
It is also a valuable tool that helps doctors plan spinal surgeries such as spinal fusion or nerve decompression. An MRI lumbar spine can also be used to monitor the recovery of the spine following surgery and detect infection or scarring.
Doctors also use MRI in steroidal injections and in the assessment of inflamed and pinched nerves and a herniated or bulging lumbar disc, which is the common cause of severe pain in the lower back and sciatica.
There are several things you need to do and check prior to obtaining an MRI lumbar spine. Some of these guidelines include wearing of a gown or loose clothing during the MRI exam, taking contrast substance, and removing any jewelry or accessory that contains metal such as watches, reading glasses, pens, credit cards and etcetera.
You may also be asked if you have any type of allergy or any serious medical condition and what previous surgical procedure you may have undergone. Those with sickle cell anemia or kidney disorder may not be allowed to have an MRI exam that requires taking of contrast.
Pregnant women are usually not allowed to have this exam because the risk to the unborn child is not known, unless the benefit outweighs the possible risk. Also, patients with certain types of metal implants and electronic or medical devices in their bodies such as metallic prostheses or surgical plates are not allowed to be scanned.
Your doctor or the MRI technologist will inform you of all the guidelines to be followed for an MRI exam. Be sure to follow them for your safety and to prevent distortion of the results.