Spinal Imaging
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With spinal imaging, your spine surgeon can pinpoint the area of problem and offer you alternative treatments.

X-Rays are used commonly to visualize the bony anatomy of the spine. X-rays are excellent to check for abnormal motion in the spine.

MRI and CT scans can be used to better evaluate the "soft tissues" such as the nerves, discs and ligaments. When there is a disc herniation, X-rays may look completely normal whereas the MRI can show the extent of nerve compression caused by the disc herniation. Any "red flags" should lead to immediate studies including X-rays and MRI studies.

SAMPLE X-rays:

The X-ray is that of the lumbar [low back] spine. The vertebrae are number from 2-5. The disc spaces are in-between the vertebrae. Each disc space is associated with 2 vertebrae and, therefore, has two numbers for its name. For example, the white arrow points to the L4/5 disc space. Note the difference between the L3/4 [black arrow] and L4/5 [white arrow] disc spaces. The white arrow shows the collapse, "degenerative" disc compared to the "normal" L3/4 disc space.



Above is an image of an MRI of the lumbar spine [low back]. The vertebrae are marked with numbers; one can see lumbar vertebrae 2 through 5 and finally the S1 vertebra [which is the Sacral #1 vertebrae]. The discs are in-between the vertebrae and are number accordingly. For example, the L3/4 disc has a black arrow pointing to it. The discs always have 2 numbers for identification. The Red arrow points to the fluid in spinal canal; this fluid appears as a whitish color on the MRI. The Blue arrow points to a nerve roots in the canal.

When you look closely at the discs, you notice that the L5/S1 disc [white arrow] is dark compared to the rest of the discs which are more whitish in color. The dark disc is considered degenerated and has lost its "normal fluid".

The MRI above shows a similar view of the low back. The spinal canal with the whitish fluid is violated by a large, golf sized disc herniation as marked with the white arrow. The Red arrow points to the spinal nerves which are being pushed back by the disc herniation. The Blue arrow points to the white spinal fluid.

The MRI above shows the spinal canal narrowing at the point of the two white arrows. The fluid in the canal narrows as a result of "spinal stenosis".

The information contained above is intended for general reference purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment. No health information on Spine Specialty Institute, including information about herbal therapies and other dietary supplements, is regulated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and therefore the information should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a medical doctor.