MRI of the Spine (Cervical/Thoracic/Lumbar/Sacrum/Sacroiliac Joints)

What is an MRI of the Spine and what does it do?

An MRI of the spine is done to:

  • assess the spinal anatomy and alignment.
  • detect congenital anomalies of vertebrae or the spinal cord.
  • assess problems with intervertebral disk disease (degenerated, bulging or herniated) and intervertebral joint disease, both frequent causes of severe lower back pain and sciatica (back pain radiating into a leg).
  • assess compression of spinal cord and nerves.
  • help plan spinal surgical procedures, such as decompression of a pinched nerve or spinal fusion.
  • monitor changes in the spine after an operation, such as scarring or infection.
  • explore other possible causes of back pain (compression fracture, for example).
  • image spinal infection or tumors that arise in, or have spread to, the spine.
  • assess inflammation of the spinal cord or nerves.

An MRI may be done using contrast material to see abnormal tissue more clearly. The contrast material also may help tell the difference between old surgical scars and a new disease or injury.

Who performs the test?

The exam itself is performed by a Radiologic Technologist RT (R). These technologists are nationally registered with the A.R.R.T. (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) and licensed through the state of Florida in the use of diagnostic equipment and procedures. Also, the technologist performing your MRI procedure has additional MRI specific training.

Where does it take place?

MRI scans are performed at Jackson Hospital in the radiology department.

How long does it take?

Average person takes 30 minutes to an hour

What you can do to make it a success?

Because the MRI machine is a very strong magnet, it is important to let your doctor know if you have any of the following:


  • Pacemaker   
  • Defibrillator
  • Aneurysm Clips
  • Stents
  • Any other metallic or electronic implant
  • If you have a card that explains the type of implant/prosthesis that you have, please bring it with you on the day of your test.
  • If you are pregnant, let your doctor know.

It is helpful to wear clothing with no metal or embellishments on them. Also, please do not wear jewelry or hair accessories of any kind as these will have to be removed before entering the MRI scan room.

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown for better imaging.

A locker for your clothing and belongings will be provided.

What to do before your exam?

There is no preparation for this MRI study. Eat normally and take your medications as prescribed.

What happens during your exam?

You will lie down on the MRI table.

Depending on which body part is to be imaged; a device called a “coil” may be placed around the body part.

The MRI machine is quite loud so you will be given headphones to listen to the radio or a CD if you bring one. Or, if you prefer, earplugs can be provided instead.

You will then be positioned inside the MRI scanner. Once the scan starts, it is very important that you remain completely still as motion will cause the images to be blurry and non-diagnostic. Blurry images will have to be repeated which will lengthen your exam time.

If your test is ordered “with contrast”, you will have an IV started in which the technologist will inject the contrast through during that portion of the study.

What to do after your exam?

The Radiologist will review your exam and relay his findings to your physician. This usually takes 1-2 days. In the case of an emergency or life threatening results, you physician will be contacted right away and you will probably be asked to stay with us until he or she is spoken with.

Unless you have other tests scheduled, you may resume your previous diet if you were following special diet instructions.

Contact Information:

Hospital (main operator): (850) 526-2200
MRI Department: (850) 718-2589
Radiology Department: (850) 718-2580

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