When Do You Need an MRI of the Spine?

Spine MRIs allow our radiologists to assess the structures of the spine and identify issues or abnormalities. We use spine MRIs to examine:

  • Spine pain
  • Injury after trauma
  • Tumor diagnosis
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Herniated discs
  • Disc degeneration
An MRI may help determine the reason for experiencing various symptoms, including spine pain. A spine MRI can also be used to determine the extent of injury after trauma. It is also used to diagnose tumors when patients present with certain symptoms or when doctors uncover signs during an examination.
Sometimes, a spine MRI is ordered for symptoms such as radiating nerve pain down the leg called sciatica. MRI may be used to evaluate neurologic conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The imaging test is also useful for surgeons as they plan surgeries of the spine, such as a spinal fusion or nerve decompression surgery.

How a Spine MRI Is Performed

Spine MRIs are relatively quick procedures, generally taking from 25 to 40 minutes. The time your MRI takes will depend on a few factors, such as the complexity needed for imaging or imaging sequences or whether you will need contrast dye.
Before the MRI

We will ask about any medical conditions and prior surgery you have had. Please let us know if you have any metal or metal fragments from an accident or trauma in your body. Metal can affect the magnets in the MRI. In addition, let us know if you have any planted devices that aren't compatible with an MRI. These include:

  • Pacemakers
  • Defibrillators
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Auditory hearing implants
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Internal wires or electrodes
  • Implanted pumps or ports
  • Surgical mesh
  • Any coils, stents, or filters

Older pacemakers and defibrillators are generally not safe with MRI, but many newer models are compatible. Speak with your doctor about which kind you have.

Other issues that may affect an MRI:

  • Tattoos or piercings: Permanent piercings or certain types of body or face/makeup tattooing may prevent you from having an MRI. All jewelry and piercings must be removed for your safety.
  • Current or prior metal worker: Metal workers could have small metal fragments in their eyes as an occupational hazard. Before performing the MRI, we may need to do an X-ray to check.

Please see our MRI Safety Form for more information.

During the MRI

To get more detailed images of tissues, we may use a contrast dye called gadolinium. The dye used for an MRI is different from the one used in a CT exam. Most people do not have an issue, but let the scheduler and MRI technologist know if you have previously had an allergic reaction to any contrast agent.

You may find the MRI exam loud due to the clunking sound of the magnets. Our technologists will provide you with headphones so you can listen to music. Many patients find they are soothed to sleep with the distraction of music. Sudden movements may cause irregularities in the images, so we ask that you remain as still as possible.

After the MRI

We will provide your results as soon as possible. They will not be available right away as MRIs produce hundreds of images in various sequences that the radiologist will need to examine. When they are ready, you will get a call about your results. We’ll also notify your ordering physician, who will discuss what happens next based on your imaging results.

Spine MRI Specialists Near Me

Meet Our Specialists

With decades of experience in women's imaging, our specialists are dedicated to elevating care for all women. Our dedicated team of radiologists, technicians, and staff work together to provide advanced imaging services so patients get the answers they need.

Kelly McAleese, M.D.

Timothy Colt, M.D.

Barbara Jaegar, M.D.

John Lewin, M.D.


Frequently Asked Questions About Spine MRIs

When should you consider a Spine MRI?

A Spine MRI may be ordered by your physician to get a more detailed look at the spinal cord, vertebral bodies, discs, ligaments, and larger nerves. MRI may help determine the reason for spine pain, injury after trauma, or to diagnose tumors. A Spine MRI of the neck (cervical spine), mid-back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbar spine) can give a surgeon a more detailed map prior to anticipated surgery. 

How is a Spine MRI done?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI for short) is an imaging technology that uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed 3-D Imaging of the vertebrae, spinal cord, and associated anatomy. These signals are then converted to images for the radiologists to interpret. MRI is commonly performed to identify a reason for your symptoms. 

Insurance Options We Honor

At the Women's Imaging Center, we accept most major insurance providers and provide affordable self-pay options. If you have any questions about whether we accept your insurance, please contact us at 303-321-2273.

Schedule Your Spine MRI

Take better care of your spine with the help of the experienced team at The Women’s Imaging Center. We offer over 100 breast, body imaging, and diagnostic medical procedures for your convenience at multiple locations throughout the Denver metro area.