An MRI is a radiological exam that allows your back doctor to view your organs, blood vessels, muscles, joints, and other areas in perfect detail. An MRI does not use X-rays. An MRI exam, therefore, has no harmful side effects since you are not exposed to radiation. It is very safe.
How MRIs Work
An MRI is a large machine that a technician rolls you into. The machine creates a magnetic field that sends radio waves through your body. Those radio waves are then captured and measured, creating an image of the inside of your body.
While some people experience a claustrophobic effect inside an MRI machine, it is completely safe. The staff at the Southeastern Spine Institute do everything they can to make your experience pleasant.
Why an MRI?
An MRI scan provides the best quality image of your spine, better than an X-ray. From the scan, your doctor can get valuable information about the health of your spine. Scans enable reliable and accurate diagnoses, especially when studying nerve root compression.
MRI with Contrast
Occasionally, you may need an MRI enhanced with gadolinium contrast. This dye further refines the scan for a better resolution. Your physician may order these MRI scans if you have had previous lumbar spine surgery or even if you have not had any surgery — only your physician can determine if you need to have contrast with your MRI. Please notify our office if you are allergic to the contrast dye.
Preparation for an MRI
In most cases, you do not have to change your normal daily routine. Please take your medications as normal unless you have been instructed otherwise. Notify our office if you have any of the following:
- Aneurysm clips
- Cardiac stent(s)
- Cochlear implants
- Implanted neurostimulator
- Metal implants
- Steel surgical staples or clips
- Implanted drug infusion device
- Any other metal or partial-metal implant
Also, please inform our office if you have ever been a sheet metal worker or metal grinder.
If You Are Claustrophobic
Let us know if you are claustrophobic. We can prescribe oral medication to help you relax during your MRI scan. If you think you will need sedation, please notify our office at least one day before your exam. We need 24 hours’ notice to prepare this medication.
We do not keep sedation medication at the MRI clinic. You must get a written prescription from our office — it cannot be called in — and have it filled at your pharmacy before you arrive for your appointment.
Also, if you are given oral sedation, you must bring someone to drive you home from your appointment.