Spine MRI is a non-invasive imaging method that uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field, rather than x-rays, to produce clear and detailed images of your spine. This procedure may be performed with or without an intravenous contrast media depending upon what your doctor would like to have visualized.
Who performs the procedure?
The procedure is performed by a MRI Technologist with the assistance of a Radiologist.
Why is this procedure performed?
This procedure is performed to visualize normal and diseased tissue in the spine. It shows the anatomy of the vertebrae that make up the spine, as well as the spinal cord and the spaces between the vertebrae through which nerves pass.
Where is the procedure performed?
University Imaging Center
University of Maryland Professional Building, Suite 110
419 West Redwood Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
University of Maryland Medical Center
Department of Diagnostic Radiology, 2nd Floor
22 South Greene Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Is there any prep for this procedure?
If contrast is being administered you will have to have blood work drawn within 30 days of your procedure.
What can I expect before the procedure?
Once you arrive at the Imaging Center, you will have to register at the front desk. Please have your insurance information ready at this time. After registration, you will be escorted to a dressing room to put on a gown if you have any metal on your clothing. You will be asked to remove all metal objects including jewelry, watches and hairpins. Dyes used in tattoos may contain iron and could heat up during MRI, but this is rarely a problem.
How long is the procedure?
Each section of the spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) takes approximately 20 minutes. There will be an additional 15 minutes if contrast is administered.
What can I expect during the procedure?
You will lie on your back on a narrow table that can be moved back and forth, into and out of the MRI tunnel. Bolsters or cushions are used to maintain proper positioning and to make you as comfortable as possible. You will be given several breathing instructions and asked to hold completely still while your spine is scanned. Sometimes a sedative is needed because some people may experience a feeling of anxiety once the MRI table is moved into the scanner. A sedative should be prescribed by your doctor and it should help you relax. If contrast material is to be injected, you may feel brief pain from the needle stick and a sense of warmth when the material is injected, which takes one to two minutes.
What can I expect after the procedure?
After the procedure,the results are sent to your doctor and you may resume normal activity.
Are there any risks to this procedure?
An iron-containing implant or cardiac pacemaker may be affected by the strong pull of the magnetic field.
Are there any alternatives to this procedure?
A CT scan or general X-ray can be used as an alternative to this procedure.
How do I schedule an appointment?
Please contact the Radiology Access Center at 410-328-3225 to schedule an appointment.
For more information about the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine or to contact one of our radiologists, call the University Physicians Consultation and Referral Service at 1-800-492-5538 (patients) or 1-800-373-4111 (physicians).
This page was last updated: January 22, 2014