What is MRI scanning of the spine?
What are some common uses of the examination?
- Assess spinal anatomy and alignment.
- Assess intervertebral disc disease (degenerated, bulging or herniated) and intervertebral joint disease, both frequent causes of back pain and sciatica (back pain radiating into lower leg).
- Explore other possible causes of back pain (compression fracture or bone bruising, such as oedema).
- Help plan spinal surgical procedures, such as decompression of a pinched nerve, spinal fusion, or the injection of steroids to relieve spinal pain.
- Assess compression of spinal cord and nerves.
- Detect bone, disc, ligament or spinal cord injury after spine trauma.
- Assess infection involving the spine, discs and spinal contents including spinal cord or its coverings (meninges).
- Assess tumours that arise from or have spread to the vertebrae, spinal cord, nerves or the surrounding soft tissues.
- Monitor changes in the spine after an operation, such as scarring or infection.
- You do not need to fast prior to the test and should take any medications as per your usual routine.
- If you have a history of kidney disease or liver transplant, please let us know at the time of booking. We will need to carry out a blood test to check if the kidneys are functioning adequately. Some conditions, such as severe kidney disease, may prevent you from being given contrast dye for certain MRI studies.
- Please inform us if there is any risk that you may be pregnant. Pregnant womem should only have this examination in the first trimester of their pregnancy, unless necessary. They should also not receive injections of gadolinium contrast dye except when absolutely necessary for medical treatment.
- If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety, you may want to ask your Physician for a prescription for a mild sedative prior to your scheduled examination.
Image courtesy of Siemens Healthcare
- What will I experience during and after my MRI scan?On arrival, you will be asked to complete a safety questionnaire. One of our MRI Radiographers will then check it with you,explain the examination to you and answer any questions you may have.You will be asked to change into a gown and to remove any metal, for example: jewellery, hairpins, eyeglasses, watches, wigs, dentures, hearing aids and underwire bras. An MRI specialist, the Radiographer, will take you into the scanning room where you will lie on the scanner table.Devices that contain coils capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed around or adjacent to the area of the body being studied. During an MRI of the head, for example, a device is positioned around the head to improve image quality.During the MRI you may slowly move through the scanner. The scanner can be quite loud, due to the powerful magnets working within it. You will hear repetitive clicking, tapping and other loud noises. We will ask you, as a precaution, to wear hearing protection and for some scans you may be able to listen to the radio. You will be asked to lie very still so as to ensure clear images are produced . The Radiographer operating the scanner can both see and hear you clearly throughout the examination and will speak to you through an intercom connected to the headphones.The procedure is painless. You don't feel the magnetic field or radio waves, and there are no moving parts around you. Some patients find it uncomfortable to remain still during an MRI, whilst others experience a sense of being closed-in (claustrophobia). If this is something you are concerned about, you may want to ask your Physician for a prescription for a mild sedative prior to your scheduled examination. However, fewer than one in 20 patients require medication for this.In some cases, a contrast dye called gadolinium, may be injected through an intravenous line into a vein in your hand or arm. The contrast is not always needed but can enhance the appearance of certain details in the scan. The contrast used during MRI scans is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the dye used for CT scans.If you have not been sedated, no recovery period is necessary. You may resume your normal activities and diet immediately after the MRI. On very rare occasions, patients experience hives, itchy eyes or other reactions to the contrast dye (if it was used). If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, please notify the Radiographer. A Radiologist or other physician will be available for immediate assistance.
Who interprets the results and how do I receive them?
A Consultant Radiologist, a Doctor specifically trained to interpret radiology examinations, will analyse the images and send a report to your referring Doctor. All the radiologists at the Mater Private in Dublin are specialists in the interpretation of MRI scans. You may need to make a follow-up appointment with your Doctor to discuss the results.