When it comes to back pain or serious spinal conditions, a noninvasive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, using radio wave energy to form images of internal parts of the body, can be used to either confirm a diagnosis or find evidence of a problem that wasn’t detectable through an initial examination. There are many reasons why a doctor or spinal surgeon in Santa Monica may request an MRI as part of a patient’s evaluation.
Confirming a Diagnosis
Doctors or spinal surgeons typically have a good idea of what they’re looking for when they schedule an MRI for a patient. Spinal surgeons tend to use MRI scans for patients undergoing procedures such as a lumbar spinal fusion or decompression to fine-tune surgeries and check for the presence of spinal tumors or other conditions that are difficult to confirm with an x-ray. Additional reasons a doctor or spinal surgeon may request an MRI include:
- Checking for internal infections or disc misalignment
- Differentiating scar tissue from recurrent disc herniation (following back surgery)
- Determining the proper placement of an epidural injection (to avoid infected areas)
When an MRI Is Not Recommended
While an MRI can be useful, it’s not always the best way to diagnose a back injury. For instance, CT scans are generally used to determine the severity of fractures and for patients who are suspected of having a fracture, as would be experienced after a fall.
Generally, the only time an MRI is needed immediately is when a patient exhibits progressive weakness in the legs (possibly due to nerve damage) and bowel incontinence. However, it’s worth noting that some patients may have a lumbar disc herniation (clearly visible from an MRI scan) without exhibiting any back pain. Normally, a doctor will proceed with the prescribed treatment unless the MRI shows an abnormality.
Are You in Need of an MRI to Diagnosis a Spine Condition?
If you have a back or neck condition and would like to confirm diagnosis through an MRI or if you would like a second opinion, please reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today. Located in Santa Monica, CA, we serve the entire Los Angeles area and have a team of specialists and surgeons who can help determine the cause of your problem and the most effective treatment options.
For more information, please call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.