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MRI Emerges As Vital Resource in Treatment of Back Pain
Date:1/3/2009

logy makes MRI well suited to evaluate spaces between spinal vertebrae, bone marrow, the spinal canal, and in soft tissues. Therefore MRI has been shown to be useful for almost every spinal pathology including; diseases of the spinal cord, nerve roots, vertebrae, disks and blood vessels. With MRI there is no radiation risk to the patient.

Computed tomography (CT) has also improved in resolution and scanning speed and is often the only imaging method available for patients with pacemakers, nerve stimulators, or those who suffer from claustrophobia. For these individuals, CT can provide structural information needed for diagnosis in many back pain cases. However, CT does include some exposure to radiation.

MRI, although a very important technology, should never take the place of a thorough medical history and physical examination. Also, there are often structural findings or "abnormalities" on MRI that are not clinically relevant and not necessarily related to a patient's symptoms. MRI findings must always correlate with the patient's clinical picture.

"The possibilities of magnetic resonance have not yet been realized. It is a rapidly evolving field. When we need tools to identify a possible herniated disk (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00334), the simplest type of MR imaging or CT imaging can be used successfully. However, if you want to find out which disk is causing pain, which nerve is firing, which metabolites are present in abnormal amounts, or how well the spinal elements are functioning, MR will provide the answers," adds Dr. Haughton.

Disclosure: Neither Dr. Haughton or any member of his immediate family has received anything of value from, or owns stock in, a commercial company or institution related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

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SOURCE American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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