Why You May Need a Lumbar MRI

March 20, 2018 – 3 min read

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If your doctor has recommended a lumbar MRI, you may be wondering why you need this imaging procedure. Why do doctors use lumbar MRIs? A lumbar MRI takes detailed images of your lower back or lumbar region to help with diagnostics and treatment. Keep reading to find out why doctors recommend this type of imaging and what to expect during the process.


Detecting Issues with a Lumbar MRI

Typically, physicians recommend lumbar MRIs when they believe their patients have a serious issue such as a fracture, a tumor, or inflammation between their intervertebral discs. Additionally, if you have sciatica pain that doesn’t respond to treatment, your doctor may also recommend an MRI of your lumbar region.

Similarly, you may also need this type of imaging if you have unexplained lower back pain paired with leg and/or hip pain. Finally, if you have multiple sclerosis, bladder issues, brain and spinal cancer, or signs of nerve damage in your legs, your doctor may also recommend a lumbar MRI.

A lumbar MRI can show all of the following issues:

  • Herniated discs
  • Nerve root compression
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Compression fractures
  • Discitis


Choosing a Lumbar MRI

There are numerous reasons to choose a lumbar MRI over a traditional x-ray. In particular, a lumbar MRI is safer, easier, and more accurate than an x-ray. There are no known side effects of this type of imaging procedure, and unless you have metal in your body (metal plates, rods, implants, stents, artificial heart valves, IUDs, etc.) or an allergy to the contrast dye, there’s nothing to worry about.


Preparing for a Lumbar MRI

To prepare, start by talking with your doctor about any potential complications. If you think you might feel nervous in such a confined space, you may want to take an anti-anxiety medication. In that case, you also need to arrange a ride home for after the procedure. In all other cases, you can generally drive yourself to and from this outpatient imaging procedure.


Getting a Lumbar MRI

Often, the process starts with an injection of contrast dye. That simply helps the images to show up more clearly on the MRI, but it’s not needed in every situation. If you get contrast dye, expect to wait about an hour while the dye goes around your system.

Then, you lie down on your back, side, or stomach on a bench in the MRI machine. The machine is made of metal, and it surrounds you during this process. While the images are being taken, the technician stands in the next room. From there, they can control the bench and the MRI equipment to get the best angles for the images, and they can also talk with you through an intercom system. Generally, the imaging takes about 30 to 90 minutes. You will not feel anything painful, but you will hear the whirring and grinding of the equipment.


If you need a lumbar MRI or any other type of imaging, contact American Health Imaging today. We have a highly trained staff who is committed to making every patient feel comfortable and at ease. If you’re a physician, you can also contact us to make an appointment on behalf of your patient.