What does an MRI of the lumbar spine show: how to prepare and how much it costs

The lumbar region can hide the cause of many disorders and diseases of other organs. Treating them without eliminating the true nature of the problem is unsuccessful. For example, knee pain may be due to a herniated lumbar disc. All efforts to heal the knee without restoring health in the spinal zone is reduced to zero.

MRI will perform error-free diagnostics. As a result, the patient may receive valuable information about some diseases that previously seemed incurable.

What is an MRI of the lumbar spine and why should it be done

MRI of the lumbar spine – examination of the state of hard and soft tissues, determination of pathologies in the most accurate and safe way. The method is based on the body’s response to magnetic effects.

Each tissue has a different amount of water, hydrogen atoms, which respond to a magnetic field. The device records this response in the form of a snapshot, registering the boundaries of tissues and the slightest changes in them with an accuracy of tenths of a millimeter.

Installation without insertion into the human body can take snapshots of sections in the problem area and create a three-dimensional picture, allowing specialists to see the spine from the inside.

The lumbar region is endowed with mobility, slightly less than the cervical one. At the same time, he takes on heavy loads. As a result, it has enough prerequisites for degenerative changes, displacement of the vertebrae, discs and the occurrence of hernias.

The lumbar region has a close connection with the internal organs of the lower abdomen and the kidneys. Functional disorders in them will change the muscle tone in a specific spinal segment before pain appears.

And, conversely, there may be no back pain, while problems in the feet, knees, vague symptoms in the legs may be the result of a hernia in the lumbar spine. Therefore, diagnostics of this level is very important to establish the true causes of health failure and proper treatment.

What this method shows

In the pictures, the doctor receives information:

  • On the relative position of the vertebrae and discs, whether the picture corresponds to their correct anatomical dislocation
  • On the condition of bone tissue, cartilage, nerve fibers and blood vessels supplying the lumbar region.
  • About pathological changes in the discs and vertebrae, determines the presence of hernias, which speaks of the disease osteochondrosis.
  • Is there a compression of the nerve roots as a result of degenerative processes in the lumbar spine.

About diseases and disorders:

  • ankylosing spondylitis,
  • neoplasms in the spinal cord and vertebrae, possible metastases,
  • diseases associated with the spinal cord – multiple sclerosis, syringomyelia, myelitis,
  • osteoporotic changes,
  • rheumatoid lesions
  • spinal canal stenosis,
  • spondylosis,
  • changes in the physiological bend of the lumbar spine,
  • infectious diseases.

What are the indications for the appointment

  1. Chronic pain in the lumbar spine and in the legs is the reason to do an MRI of this part of the spine. Disorders in the lumbar region manifest themselves in symptoms:
    • stiffness in the lower back, local pain,
    • discomfort to pain in the ankles, thighs, buttocks,
    • pain and numbness of the foot, separately in some toes,
    • discomfort in the knee or under the knee.

Feelings that cause anxiety in the legs:

    • numbness,
    • pain,
    • running “goose bumps”
    • tingling,
    • feeling of “cotton feet”
    • pulling pains
    • weakness.
  • MRI is prescribed to confirm or clarify already established diagnoses related to the lumbar spine:
    • osteochondrosis (more details here),
    • suspected tumors
    • vascular disorders of the lumbar spine,
    • narrowing of the spinal cord canal,
    • changes in the spinal column caused by tuberculosis,
    • spondylosis and other diseases.
  • A study by this method is prescribed in order to correct the diagnosis made using other diagnostic methods, for example: an X-ray.
  • MRI is used to determine the effects of trauma.
  • The indication for MRI is the prescribed surgery or checking the condition of the lumbar spine after it.
  • To determine the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment.

When magnetic resonance imaging in the lumbar region is contraindicated

The method is harmless, for contraindications are:

  1. Early pregnancy is the first trimester.
  2. Cases if a person has diseases in which he cannot lie still for the required length of time.
  3. Claustrophobia only for closed installations.
  4. Metal implants in the body; any metal inclusions that cannot be removed.
  5. Devices built into the body that support its functions
  6. Patient weight exceeding 100 or 130 kilograms, depending on the type of installation. There are more modern modifications that have no weight restrictions.

Preparation for the examination

  • If the doctor does not give additional recommendations for preparing for the procedure, then it will be needed only in the case of using a contrast agent. Before the start of the diagnosis, you should refuse food for four hours.
  • All metal objects must be removed.
  • Leave mobile phones and cards out of the magnetic field.
  • If the diagnosis is performed by a closed-type device and this causes discomfort, a sedative drug is injected.

How is the diagnosis done?

Depending on the modification of the tomograph, the examination procedure has minor differences.

  • The patient, lying on a horizontal table, is secured with straps to prevent movement during the procedure.
  • The table drives into a closed or open type installation. In the second case, the upper part of the device will be above the patient’s lumbar region, and most of the body will be outside the unit.
  • Some appliances produce a quieter or louder noise, to avoid discomfort, you can wear vacuum headphones if you wish. There are almost silent installations.
  • The procedure lasts 15 minutes, with the use of contrast up to 30 minutes.

MRI with verticalization

For MRI of the lumbar spine, the latest developments of open-type devices are used, which make diagnostics in two stages:

  • The first is in a horizontal position, as in other MRI devices.
  • Second, the patient is placed in an upright position without interrupting the diagnosis. The operator monitors the displacement of the vertebrae relative to each other and the change in the shape of the intervertebral discs under the influence of gravity.

This method provides a more accurate diagnosis of hernias in the lumbar region. When conducting a study with traditional tomographs in a horizontal position, there are cases – there are symptoms indicating a hernia, but they are not detected.

Study with a verticalization device – hernias became visible for diagnosis in 40% of cases.

How much is

The cost of the procedure takes into account the modification of the equipment and the time of the procedure and includes the costs of:

  • consumed resources,
  • type of media for recording diagnostic results.

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