What Does a Lumbar Spine MRI Show?

January 9, 2019 – 2 min read

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What Does a Lumbar Spine MRI Show?

If your doctor has recommended an MRI of your lumbar spine, you might be wondering what this imaging test shows. To help you prepare, here is a look at the details behind an MRI of the lumbar region, as well as a brief description of what you can see and why doctors order MRIs for this location.

What Is an MRI of the Lumbar Spine?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and lumbar spine MRI uses magnetic imaging technology and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the inside of your body near the lumbar (lower) region of your spine. This cross-sectional imaging method made possible with MRI machines also captures pictures of the soft tissues, muscles and organs in that part of your body.

What Does a Lumbar Spine MRI Show?

If you are experiencing unexplained back pain and leg pain that interfere with your function and quality of life, this imaging test can offer clues about why this pain is occurring. It relies on the use of a strong magnetic field to capture detailed pictures of the five lumbar vertebral bones, the sacrum and the coccyx (tailbone), as well as the blood vessels, tendons, nerves and ligaments that support these bones.

Some of the inconsistencies that a lumbar spine MRI may show include compression or inflammation of the spinal cord and adjacent nerves, degeneration of joints such as vertebral facet joints, disc herniation, infection of the discs, spinal cord and vertebrae, trauma to the tissues, and tumors.

Your doctor may recommend a lumbar spine MRI if you are having any of the following symptoms or issues:

  • Back pain
  • Fevers with back pain
  • Back pain that extends into your legs
  • Injuries in your lower spine
  • Spinal birth defects
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain or spine cancer or the symptoms of these cancers
  • Issues with your bladder

How Long Does the Test Take?

Typically, about 30 to 60 minutes from start to finish. This includes time to get in position on the movable scanning table.

How Do You Prepare?

If you have any metal in your body, such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or a metal plate, let your doctor know. Also, let your doctor know about any allergies.

The procedure is painless, but with most MRI machines, you are in an enclosed space. If you anticipate feeling nervous, ask your doctor about patient-friendly technologies such as soundscapes and visual aids. Alternatively, let your doctor know so that they can potentially prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. Finally, make sure to find out if you need to be sedated so that you can arrange a ride home.

If you want to save money on your imaging test, schedule an appointment at American Health Imaging (AHI). We have top-of-the-line equipment, we focus on imaging—so our prices stay low—and our employees are well trained.

Find the closest center to you, with locations throughout the Southeast.