What is a Spine MRI?

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What is a Cervical Spine MRI?

A cervical spine MRI is a very popular non invasive method of the imaging of the spinal area with the help of some powerful magnets and radio waves. The details and information achieved through the scan are quite substantial as it creates in depth images of the vertebrae, the spinal cord as well as the spaces in between the vertebrae through which the nerves travel. The fact that these images can be easily examined on a computer as well as printed or copied to a compact disk make them very convenient instruments in getting a second opinion about a particular medical ailment. Normal spine MRI's are carried out primarily to give the attending physician or doctor an in depth understanding about the primary cause of the condition. For example, the mri images are essential in monitoring changes in the spine after an operation has been carried out such as scarring or infection as well as administering the injection of steroids in order to relieve spinal pain. MRI images are also commonly used to assess the disks along the spine and identify if they are either bulging or degenerated - which is a very common cause of other problems such as sciatica and lower back pain. A normal spine MRI is also frequently used to identify the cause of some children suffering from daytime wetting or urinary incontinence.


When undergoing a cervical spine mri or a normal spine mri, the patient will be asked to lie down on a narrow table, that slides into a larger tunnel like tube. In some cases, it may be necessary to inject a contrast dye into your veins with the help of a syringe in order to help certain diseases and organs show up more clearly on the scans. The MRI machine does not use radiation but instead uses some very powerful magnetic fields in order to move around certain atoms within the body, which will then move back to their original placement and bounce the radio waves back - causing the images to appear. The doctor pays attention to the kind of signal sent back as normal tissues in the body send back a different signal to the cancerous tissue. An MRI scan will require a number of images to be captured and will usually take no longer than 15 minutes. The more intensive scans, however, may take up to an hour.

Because of the magnetic forces involved, it is important that the patient informs the doctor if she is pregnant as there is a chance that the magnetic fields will interfere with the development of the unborn child.