While spine MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a valuable diagnostic tool, it's essential for healthcare professionals to carefully evaluate the clinical indications and weigh the potential benefits against the drawbacks before recommending it. In this blog post, we will explain the role of MRI in diagnosing back pain and the potential negative effects of routine spine MRI.
What is an MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves to generate images of the organs in the body.
Do you always need an MRI to evaluate back pain?
Back pain is very common. It is estimated that around 80% of people experience back pain at some point in their life. For most people, back pain subsides on its own within 6 weeks. In the majority of cases, back pain can be managed without an MRI. Your Doctor will advise you whether you need an MRI scan based on your symptoms.
When is spine MRI indicated?
Some of the red flags that might indicate a serious pathology and the need for an MRI are: traumatic injury, unexpected weight loss, high fever, history of cancer and loss of bladder function. MRI may also be advisable for back pain lasting for more than three months.
Should I be worried about spine degeneration shown in MRI?
As far as your MRI findings are not correlated with neurological symptoms or other red flags, you should not worry about degeneration shown in MRI results. Research indicates that many spine MRI findings, such as degeneration and disc bulges, are normal signs of aging and they should not be considered threatening as they are found in healthy individuals without back pain too.
What are the drawbacks of routine spine MRI?
Routine spine MRI may detect incidental findings or abnormalities that are unrelated to the patient's symptoms or overall health. This can lead to unnecessary follow-up tests, treatments, or interventions, causing undue anxiety and medical costs.
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