Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a commonly used imaging test to evaluate for spine problems. It uses magnetic and radio waves to created a detailed computer-generated image of the bones and soft tissue. This test does not have radiation. For the spine, the MRI allows for very clear detail for the ligaments, muscles, nerves and discs in the spine. It can show an array of spine disease including: degenerative disc disease, annular tears, disc herniations, nerve root impingement, spinal stenosis and cord pathology, cysts and joint hypertrophy, tumors and infection. A MRI scanner is a large round tunnel that takes noisy pictures. You are required to lie still in a confined space; some patients may feel claustrophobic and require an anti-anxiety pill for successful images. While open MRI machines exist, they usually produce such poor quality images they are not recommended unless absolutely needed. An MRI cannot be used in patient with any metal objects in the body that could be attracted to the strong magnetic field, this included surgical metal clips or implants, a pacemaker, a spinal cord stimulator or shrapnel from a gunshot wound.
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