What Does a MRI of the Lumbar Spine Show?
Feb 13, · The most common pitfall in reading a lumbar MRI is focusing on the most obvious abnormality. It’s easy to do: your eye naturally goes to the vertebral slip, or the huge herniated disc. That’s natural, but in every case also be sure to do a systematic reading of the entire study. Unlike an x-ray machine which creates a compressed one-slice picture of the entire lumbar spine (it is like the spine was run over by a steamroller and smashed into one view), MRI (and CT) creates a sequential (in order) multi-slice series of images, which are typically taken from left to right, at intervals (aka: cuts or slices) of mm.
Last Updated: May 5, References. Erik Kramer is a Primary Care Physician at the University of Colorado, specializing in internal medicine, diabetes, and weight management.
He received his Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine D. There are 16 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 10, times. If you're having lower back pain, your doctor may order an MRI magnetic resonance imaging. During an MRI, you lie on a flat bed that slides into a large tube. Then, a powerful magnet and radio waves create detailed images of your spinal column.
Your doctor uses those images to figure out what may be causing your back pain so they can recommend treatment. While you can't diagnose your own condition simply by looking at your MRI, if you know how to read it yourself you can explain the issues to others. Tip: If you see a bright, white line running down your spine on a sagittal MRI, you're looking at a T 2 -weighted image.
The white line is the cerebrospinal fluid of your spinal canal, which holds your nerves. Tip: A sagittal image may also show the thoracic vertebrae above the lumbar section of your spine. To correctly identify the lumbar vertebrae, it may be easier to count up from the bottom.
Tip: You'll likely see more desiccation at the L and L5-S1 levels, since these are the most mobile levels of the lumbar region of the spine.
Related Articles. Method 1 of All rights reserved. This image may not be used by other entities without the express written consent of wikiHow, Inc. Ask for a copy of your MRI report and images.
When you get your MRI done, the radiologist may simply send the report and images to your doctor for review. However, you're entitled to a copy if you ask for one. If you don't have a computer with a CD drive, ask the radiologist if they can email you digital files so you how to check catalytic converter for problems view them.
The report identifies all of the abnormalities the radiologist detected on your images. The radiologist may also have put markers typically colored arrows on the images to point out each of these abnormalities.
Identify the type of MRI used in each image. At a minimum, you'll have a sagittal lumbar MRI, which is a vertical image that looks at your spine from the side. You may also have axial images, which look at a cross-section of an individual disc.
Think of these as similar to slicing a tree log in sections to look at the rings on the tree. Each of these uses one of two imaging techniques:  X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Family Physicians Organization devoted to improving the health of patients, families, and communities Go to source T 1 -weighted images show greater contrast between tissues, which allows your doctor to more accurately diagnose disc herniation.
T 2 -weighted images brighten the cerebrospinal fluid of your spinal canal, making it easier for your doctor to see different types of infection that might be missed by a T 1 -weighted image. T 2 how to reduce sinus inflammation images are used for both sagittal and axial MRIs.
Use the sagittal image to view your entire lumbar spine. With the sagittal image, you get a better overall picture of how to read lumbar spine mri lumbar spine. You can identify vertebrae that are out of alignment or discs that are abnormal.
If you see an abnormality on the sagittal image, you can easily pinpoint more or less where on your body that abnormality is located. Look at axial images to view individual discs. If one or more of your discs show an how to calculate z test, you may have axial images that show that disc in greater detail.
With an axial image, you're looking at the top of the disc as seen from above. Your doctor may use an axial image to get a clearer picture of a herniated disc. Method 2 of Count the vertebrae of your lumbar spine. The vertebrae in your spine are divided into 5 regions. The lumbar region, consisting of 5 vertebrae, is the lowest region of your spine with movable vertebrae.
In the 2 lower regions, the sacrum and the coccyx, the vertebrae are fused together. You can count them down on your sagittal MRI. Medically, the vertebrae are labeled with an "L" indicating the lumbar region, followed by the number. For example, the second vertebra from how to make a novelty birthday cake top of your lumbar spine is called "L2. Label the discs between the vertebrae. Each of the vertebrae of your lumbar spine is separated by a disc that acts as a cushion for the vertebrae.
Your discs keep the bones of your spinal column from rubbing against each other when you move. They are labeled using the number of the vertebrae above and below them, separated by a how to read lumbar spine mri. Looking at your sagittal image, you should be able to determine the name for each of the discs in the lumbar region of your spine.
The disc under L5 sits between the last vertebrae of the lumbar region and the first vertebrae of your sacrum, so it is referred to as L5-S1. Locate the spinal canal that holds nerves and fluid.
Behind the column of vertebrae and discs, you'll see a long canal that holds nerves and spinal fluid. It will either be bright white or dull gray depending on whether you have a T 1 or T 2 image. The line naturally curves at the lower end of the lumbar region. Your spinal cord technically ends before the lumbar region of your spine.
However, this canal still contains nerves that continue down into your legs. At each level of the lumbar spine, a nerve splits off from the spine and goes to a specific part of your legs or feet. Zoom in on the sagittal image to view the nerves. The nerves are likely too small for you to see on the sagittal image, but if you zoom in, you'll see the small, keyhole-shaped canals on both sides of the spinal column.
These canals are called "foramen" and allow the nerves to pass out of the spine and down to the legs. If you have a herniated disc, one may appear smaller than the others in the location of the herniation. Method 3 of Ask your doctor to see images of a normal spine. Your doctor likely has years of experience interpreting MRIs. However, it may be easier for you to see abnormalities in your own spine if you can compare your images to the images of a normal spine. Your doctor may have images of a normal spine that they can share with you.
Evaluate the shape of your vertebrae. Each of the 5 vertebral bodies should have a generally square or rectangular shape.
They'll also likely be of about the same size and thickness. Any differences could indicate a fracture or loss of bone density. If you see a vertebra that has a pointy end that sticks out into the spinal canal, this is likely a bone spur. These form as a relatively normal part of the aging process, but can be painful if they intrude too much into the canal, leaving little space for the nerves.
Compare the thickness of your discs. Normally, your discs will be of more or less uniform size and similar shape. A normal disc wouldn't protrude beyond the edges of the upper or lower vertebrae. You might think of the disc as sandwiched between two vertebrae. If you had a relatively neat sandwich, the food inside wouldn't stick out from the edges of the bread.
However, if you what age for senior citizen discount too much desiccation, your vertebrae may grind together when you move.
A disc that protrudes from the sides of the vertebrae is herniated. If the herniation creates too little space for nerves in the spinal canal, this can lead to pain and discomfort. Draw a line down the vertebrae to check your alignment. Looking at the sagittal image, the edges of your vertebrae flowing down your spine should be even if you have normal alignment. If any of the vertebrae are protruding beyond the others, so that the line isn't smooth, this may be the cause of some of your symptoms.
However, the line you draw including the curve should still be smooth and even.
What Is an MRI Lumbar Spine?
Nov 15, · A lumbar MRI is a fairly short procedure, and the person is usually free to go home afterward. According to one MRI provider, the scanning phase of a . A MRI lumbar spine shows your doctor the 5 lumbar vertebral bones, sacrum, coccyx (tailbone), blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. Sep 26, · Lower Back Pain Is Really Common. Understanding your MRI results for lower back pain is vitally important given the growing number of people sent for imaging each year. Lower back pain is one of the most common injuries we see and treat in our clinics. An estimated 1 in 6 Australia’s have chronic lower back pain.
Understanding your MRI results for lower back pain is vitally important given the growing number of people sent for imaging each year. Lower back pain is one of the most common injuries we see and treat in our clinics. Nearly 3 in 10 Australians will experience back pain at some stage. This prevalence is so high that lower back pain is the third highest disease burden in Australia. Diagnosing lower back pain can be difficult in terms of what specific pathology is causing your pain.
Most cases a clinical examination is all that is needed. This will most often be an MRI scan. MRI scans are useful in establishing a diagnosis in combination with a clinical examination. However, they are used far too often and provide little value in the rehabilitation of most lower back injuries.
However, MRIs are use way more than needed, and its not needed for most lower back pain. In other words, in some cases an MRI of your lower back can be worse than useless, it can actually cause you more pain.
This is called the nocebo effect. The nocebo effect is the opposite of a placebo effect. In a placebo the effect is positive and symptoms reduce based on the expectation that things will improve. A nocebo effect is when symptoms worsen due to the belief or expectation that your condition is bad and will worsen. Even if this is completely false, your brain can create in increase in pain based on your beliefs about your injury.
Medical guidelines strongly discourage the use of MRI and X-ray in diagnosing low back pain, because they produce so many false alarms. Radiologists can only report on what they see.
Although, there is no great correlation between what is reported on an MRI and whether those structures are the source of pain. These results strongly reinforce the idea that something is broken or damaged. This is a common and extremely misguided idea about back pain. Secondly, imaging often fails to clarify the situation, or it actually complicates the diagnostic process. There is so much evidence that lower back pain correlates really, really poorly with these test results.
In other words, MRI results cannot accurately identify your pain. That is why its so important to understand your MRI results. Furthermore, in some cases of people with pain, their repeated MRI scans show little to no change but their symptoms have improved or resolved. My main message here is to understand your MRI results and what they mean.
Not all health professionals are good at explaining them to you. Many scans can look bad and the patient is in little to no pain. Likewise, you can be in terrible pain and have a normal MRI. These injuries need timely and correct management, but they are very uncommon compared to the majority of lower back injuries. The most common reason to get an MRI is to check for neural compromise. Not all people with nerve compression need an MRI. A significant loss of muscle strength is the most concerning and may be referred for an MRI.
Although, if you have full strength with some pins and needles or pain down one of your legs, this will often get better with correct management and without the need for imaging. It also shows that the prevalence of these findings increase with age. Just know that many if not most people that are walking past you in the street will have similar findings and they are fine.
Overly worrying about your injury and avoiding movements and activities from fear of harm are the most devastating things your can do.
These beliefs increase your chance of your lower back pain becoming chronic and taking longer to recover. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain be sure to get it assessed by physiotherapist.
Click Here to read more about managing chronic lower back pain.
<- What causes fever sores on lips - What does a question mark mean->