Posted by: Thixia | June 10, 2008

MRI – benefits vs. risks



  • MRI is a non-invasive imaging technique that does not involve exposure to radiation.
  • MR images of the spine are clearer and more detailed than with other imaging methods. This detail makes MRI an invaluable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of many spinal lesions.
  • MRI has proven valuable in diagnosing a broad range of conditions, including but not limited to congenital conditions, chronic spinal cord diseases (such as multiple sclerosis), bone abnormalities (e.g., fracture) , disk conditions (e.g., herniated disk), vascular anomalies, lesions, and tumours.
  • MRI enables the detection of abnormalities that might be obscured by bone with other imaging methods.
  • The contrast material used in MRI exams is less likely to produce an allergic reaction than the iodine-based materials used for conventional x-rays and CT scanning.
  • MRI demonstrates abnormalities, lesions, injuries, and diseases in the spinal region that may not be visualized with other imaging methods.
  • MRI is very useful for evaluating spinal injuries It is especially helpful for diagnosing or ruling out acute compression of the spinal cord when clinical examination shows muscle weakness or paralysis.
  • MRI is able to detect subtle changes in the vertebral column that may be an early stage of infection or tumour. The procedure may be better than CT scanning for evaluating tumours, abscesses, lesions, and masses near the spinal cord.




  • The MRI examination poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed.
  • If sedation is used there are risks of excessive sedation. The technologist or nurse monitors your vital signs to minimize this risk.
  • Although the strong magnetic field is not harmful in itself, medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam.
  • There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected.  Such reactions usually are mild and easily controlled by medication.  There also is a very small risk of skin infection at the site of injection.  Nephrogenic (kidney tissue) systemic fibrosis is currently a recognized, but rare, complication of MRI believed to be caused by the injection of certain (but not all) MRI contrast material in patients with poor kidney function.



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