What Does An MRI of the Lumbar Spine Show?
A lumbar spine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) shows your doctor the interior of your lower spine, which is made up of a few bones, including your L4-L5 vertebrae, sacrum, and coccyx. These are the bones that make up and protect the lowest end of your spinal cord. This means that lower back pain often originates from damage or injury to these bones. An MRI scan helps your doctor in diagnosing the cause of your lower back pain, spinal birth disorders, traumatic injuries, or cancer. If you have back pain that isn’t explainable, consider getting an MRI for your peace of mind.
If you have any of the following symptoms with your lower back pain, talk to your doctor about scheduling an MRI:
- Bladder problems
- Weakness in lower extremities
- Numbness in lower extremities
- Abnormal sensations
- Sharp pains
*having one of these symptoms does not mean you have a specific diagnosis
A lumbar MRI is the best possible scan for your lower back and spine due to its clarity and details. Despite being the top scan on the market, a lumbar MRI will not show all the possible back pain diagnoses. If you are nervous about the accuracy of your scan, ask your doctor for a second opinion.
The following diagnoses could be possible based on an abnormal MRI results:
- Injuries to lower spine, kidneys, adrenal glands, liver, spleen, and uterus
- Nerve damage
- Pinched nerves
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hip problems
- Slipped or herniated discs
- Spinal degeneration
- Facet joint problems
- Spinal stenosis
- Abnormal wearing on bones and cartilage
- Muscle strain
- Degeneration of bones due to age
- Types of arthritis
- Bone infection
- Fractures of the lower back
- Disk inflammation
- Spinal cord abscess
- Spinal tumor
*if your doctor recommends a lumbar MRI, it does not mean that you have any one of these diagnoses
Nerve damage may be causing your back pain, leg numbness, muscle weakness, and loss of bladder and bowel control. Because your L4 and L5 vertebrae hold the nerves that control your legs, feet, and bladder, any damage to these vertebrae will affect your organs, muscles, and bones in those areas.
How To Prepare For A Lumbar MRI
Preparing for your lumbar MRI is simple! You don’t have to change your daily routine – you can eat, drink, and medicate as normal. On the day of your appointment, remove all metal jewelry and try to wear clothes that don’t have any metal on them. If you are getting an MRI with contrast, be sure to arrive at your appointment 15-30 minutes ahead of your appointment time.
During the exam, you will lay on your stomach, back, or side on a metal bed that will slide into the MRI machine’s magnet tube. You will go into the machine feet first, but you might not be fully inside the machine, depending on your height. Your exam will take between 30 minutes and 1 hour. If you are nervous about feeling claustrophobic inside the MRI machine, we offer sedation options as well as comfort items that can help assuage your nerves.
You’ll get your MRI results within 48-72 hours. If you have emergency results, your radiologist will get you emergency care right away. Non-emergency results will be relayed to you during a follow-up appointment with your doctor to talk about the next steps and potentially create a treatment plan.
Having back pain does not have to be part of your new normal. Discover what is causing your pain and create a plan to treat it by getting an MRI scan at South Jersey Radiology today. Book your lumbar MRI with SJRA at any of our following locations:
- Route 73 Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Greentree Office – Marlton, NJ
- Washington Township Office – Sewell, NJ
- Turnersville Office – Turnersville, NJ
- Voorhees Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- West Deptford Office – West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the board-certified sub-specialized radiologists who read and interpret studies at SJRA here.
A lumbar spine MRI is used to visualize the interior of the lower spine, including the L4-L5 vertebrae, sacrum, and coccyx. It helps diagnose the cause of lower back pain, spinal birth disorders, traumatic injuries, or cancer related to the lower spine. It provides detailed information for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.
If you experience lower back pain along with symptoms such as fever, bladder problems, weakness in lower extremities, numbness in lower extremities, abnormal sensations, or sharp pains, it is advisable to discuss with your doctor and consider scheduling an MRI. These symptoms may suggest underlying issues that require further evaluation.
An abnormal lumbar MRI can indicate various diagnoses, including inflammation, injuries to the lower spine and adjacent organs, nerve damage, pinched nerves, sciatica, multiple sclerosis, piriformis syndrome, hip problems, slipped or herniated discs, spinal degeneration, spondylosis, stenosis, facet joint problems, abnormal wearing on bones and cartilage, muscle strain, claudication, degeneration of bones due to age, types of arthritis, bone infection, fractures of the lower back, disk inflammation, spinal cord abscess, and spinal tumors. However, it's important to note that having an MRI does not automatically mean you have any of these diagnoses. Further medical evaluation is necessary.
Preparing for a lumbar MRI is straightforward. You can maintain your regular routine, including eating, drinking, and taking medications as usual. On the day of the appointment, remove all metal jewelry and wear clothing without any metal. If contrast is required for the MRI, arrive 15-30 minutes ahead of your appointment time.
During the exam, you will lie on your stomach, back, or side on a metal bed that slides into the MRI machine's magnet tube. You will enter the machine feet first, and the extent to which you are inside the machine may depend on your height. The exam typically lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour. If you have concerns about feeling claustrophobic, sedation options and comfort items are available to help you feel more at ease.
You can expect to receive your MRI results within 48-72 hours. If the results require immediate attention, your doctor will ensure you receive emergency care promptly. Non-emergency results will be discussed with you during a follow-up appointment with your doctor, where you can explore the next steps and potentially develop a treatment plan.
To book a lumbar MRI appointment, you can choose from the following locations: