Back Pain and Spine Physicians in Colorado
Telephone: (303) 762-0808
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Understanding Medical Tests: MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is an important diagnostic tool used to help identify spinal problems such as nerve impingement, disc herniation, spinal cord compression, fracture, tumor, or infection.

What is MRI?
MRI is the imaging gold standard. MRI combines computer technology, a magnetic field, and radio wave pulse energy to produce two-dimension images and three-dimensional models of the spine. This process is radiation-free and the radio waves are harmless.

MRI of the Cervical Spine

Unlike CT scans and x-ray images, MRI scans produce highly detailed images that best capture the anatomical characteristics of many soft tissue problems. In addition, MRI can create images in different anatomical planes, enabling study of the spine from different angles.

Anatomical Plane Description
Coronal Plane (Frontal Plane) Separates the body vertically from head to toe and front and back.
Sagittal Plane (Lateral Plane) Separates the body vertically from head to toe and left and right sides.
Axial Plane (Transverse Plane) Separates the body horizontally at the waist, i.e. top and bottom halves of the body.

    MRI Equipment
    You are positioned on a padded and motorized table that slides in and out of the MRI tube or scanning area. You may be gently strapped or secured in place to help prevent unintentional movement, which may distort imaging. Newer MRI machines are open at the sides and of great benefit to claustrophobic patients.

    The operation of the MRI equipment is performed in a room adjacent to the patient to protect the computers from powerful magnetic forces. However, during the test, the technician can see and communicate with you.

    Who Should Not Undergo MRI
    If you have a pacemaker, aneurysm clips, metallic orthopaedic or dental implants (including some stainless steel spinal implants), are physically too large, or pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor or radiological technician.

    Pre-test Preparation
    No special physical preparation is necessary. It is not necessary to restrict food or fluids prior to the test, unless a contrast media (dye) will be injected. You will receive special pre-test instructions if a contrast agent will be used.

    It is best to leave jewelry and other valuables at home. You will be asked to remove metal objects (i.e. belt buckle) and wear a medical gown.

    During the Procedure
    MRI machines make a significant amount of noise. You may be offered headphones and music to listen to during the test. During the test, you must remain as still as possible. The length of the test varies from 30-minutes to an hour.

    An MRI can be an important step in the diagnosis of your spinal condition. Our technicians are skilled and caring people with a desire to make your exam as successful and as comfortable as possible. Our medical staff is pleased to answer any questions you have prior to your MRI.

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    By using this website, you acknowledge that you have read and agreed to the terms of our legal disclaimer. The information provided is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. For additional health information, please contact our office.