Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the test most commonly used to look at the spine. It uses magnetic waves instead of radiation. An MRI –scanner creates a magnetic field 30 000 times as strong as that of the earth, around a person and uses radio waves to create cross-sectional images of particular parts of your body. The MRI scanner allows us to see not only the bones of the spine, but the nerves and the discs as well.
The MRI-scanner is a large magnet that has a central opening, usually about 70 cm off the ground. The patient lies on a moveable table that slides into this machine. A technologist will be in an adjacent room, and is usually contactable by microphone. This examination can take between half an hour to an hour and a half. During this time, the patient must breathe regularly and lie completely still. If the patient feels claustrophobic or anxious, a sedative may be given.