Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine uses radio waves, a magnetic field and a computer to produce detailed pictures of the spine and surrounding tissues that are clearer and more detailed than other imaging methods. The exam does not use ionizing radiation and may require an injection of a contrast material called gadolinium, which is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than iodinated contrast material.
Tell your doctor about any health problems, recent surgeries or allergies and whether there’s a possibility you are pregnant. The magnetic field is not harmful, but it may cause some medical devices to malfunction. Most orthopaedic implants pose no risk, but you should always tell the technologist if you have any devices or metal in your body. Guidelines about eating and drinking before your exam vary between facilities. Unless you are told otherwise, take your regular medications as usual. Leave jewellery at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown.
Claustrophobia and MRI:
Common methods used to help with claustrophobia during an MRI exam:
- Music: Music not only masks the loud sounds of an MRI, but it can also help you relax
- Meditation and Breathing: Deep breathing, visualization, meditation and prayer can all help you relax
- Special viewing arrangements: – Instead of staring at the tube or shutting your eyes, a plastic cage with a small mirror that fits over your head will allow you to see what is directly in front of you. This arrangement depends on whether the centre can make provisions for it.
- Family Support: As long as a consent form is signed, a family member can be in the room with you as a source of comfort and to take your mind off the test
- Sedative: Your doctor may prescribe Xanax or Valium for you to take 30 to 40 minutes before your MRI to calm your nerves
- Open MRI: An open MRI has more space, a shorter tube and all four sides are open. Likewise, an open upright MRI is completely open so you can see out while you’re seated. Since the type of MRI depends on what your doctor needs to see, you may not always have an option. The image quality is not the same as a closed conventional MRI, therefore, check with your doctor before going for an open MRI exam.