MRI scan is widely used radiology examination. This imaging technique uses principles of magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of the body structures. Your doctor can use MRI examination to diagnose you or to see how well you have responded to treatment. Generally, doctors use the MRI of the lumbar spine to detect diseases of your spinal cord, peripheral nerves, vertebrae and surrounding structures – ligaments and muscles.
The vertebral column, also known as the backbone or spine, is part of the axial skeleton containing vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs and surrounded by soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The vertebral column houses the spinal canal, a cavity that encloses and protects the spinal cord, from which peripheral nerves come out.
The lumbar spine refers to the lower back, where the spine curves inward toward the abdomen. It starts about five or six inches below the shoulder blades, and connects with the thoracic spine at the top and extends downward to the sacral spine. Many patients with back problems are recommended an MRI scan, so the doctor can decide whether surgery or non-surgical treatment is preferred.
|Insurance type||Clinic MRI price||Hospital MRI price|
|High-deductible patient||$1,200 – $2,400||$2,100 – $8,000|
|Insured patient (25% copay)||$300 – $800||$700 – $2,000|
|Cash patient||$250 – $400||$500 – $2,000|
You may need a lumbar spine MRI due to the symptoms such as back pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling and weakness in your arms and legs or even urinary incontinence and others. They can appear in the following forms:
While the MRI scan is a very accurate imaging method to examine the spinal anatomy, it is not able to distinguish between painful and non-painful structures in the spine. It means that you may feel severe back pain, but an MRI scan will show a relatively normal picture of your spine, or in other cases, you may have no pain at all, but the MRI will reveal structural abnormalities. Therefore, the findings on the MRI of the spine must be correlated with the physical examination your doctor will perform.
During the examination, you will be positioned on the moveable table. To maintain the position and to help you to lay still, the radiology technician might use straps and bolsters. If a contrast agent is needed to be used during your MRI examination, a doctor, nurse or radiologist will insert an intravenous catheter into a vein in your hand or arm. You can find more information about how does the MRI contrast agent work here.
The MRI examination usually takes within 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the length of the spine scanned (only part of the spine or the entire length). In case your doctor decides the contrast agent is needed, more images may be created and it may take 15 to 20 minutes more to perform the MRI scan.