Arthritis of the Spine

MRI for Arthritis of the Spine

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is sometimes used to diagnose and track progression of arthritis and degenerative disease of the spine.   MRI clearly demonstrates the bones, muscles, nerves, discs and other connective tissues of the spine and spinal cord. Arthritis is characterized by calcification of the joint spaces of the spine or by formation of “new bone” adjacent to normal bones of the spine. Symptoms range from loss of range of motion and stiffness to severe pain. The primary diagnosis of arthritis is often made with x-rays; complete evaluation typically requires advanced imaging (CT or MRI), but in many cases your provider will be required to utilize 4-6 weeks of progressive treatment or therapy prior to being able to order an MRI. 

Why Choose Smart Choice MRI?

Smart Choice MRI offers both a Closed 1.5 Tesla and an Open MRI scanner for our patients.  You can trust the quality at Smart Choice MRI because we are an ACR accredited facility, and because our exams are read by expert board certified and fellowship trained radiologists at the Cleveland Clinic. Remember, you have a choice of where you have your MRI performed and Smart Choice MRI can save you hundreds of dollars or more with our flat rate of just $600 for any MRI.

What will my Exam be Like? 

If you think you need to have an MRI of your spine to evalute the presence or progression of arthritis, you’ll need an order from a qualified medical provider; a Physician, a Nurse Practitioner, a Doctor of Chiropractic or a Physician’s Assistant, before you have the scan performed. Once you and your provider have determined that an MRI is required to diagnose your symptoms or injury, you are ready to schedule your appointment.  Click here to easily schedule your appointment online at Smart Choice MRI.

When scheduling, you’ll be asked questions about your medical, work and personal history to determine any risks you may have associated with an MRI exam. Patients with certain implanted medical devices, health conditions or those who work with metal may have special concerns if exposed unknowingly to the strong magnetic fields produced by MRI equipment. Additional medical questions will be asked specific to your injury or the area of your injury. Regardless of special concerns, if you’ve had previous MRI or CT images, you’ll be asked to bring them to your appointment so our expert radiologists can compare them to the scan you’ll be having at Smart Choice MRI.

On the day of your exam, you’re asked to arrive 15-20 minutes before your appointment. This will ensure that you have time to sign in, finalize your paperwork and change for your exam. You will be asked to remove all jewelry and piercings, as well as any hearing aids or metallic dentures. Most exams require that you wear lose fitting clothes that are free from any zippers, snaps, metallic buttons or closures. We provide t-shirts and sweatpants for your convenience and comfort. Our private changing rooms will be available to you if you need to change and may also be used to secure your belongings during the exam.

Prior to entering the MRI scan room, one of our registered technologists will explain the exam and ask you a few more safety and medical questions. You’ll then be escorted into the scan room and given earplugs to wear throughout your exam. Depending on the exam you’re having, we may also be able to offer you headphones that both protect your hearing and play music.

A spine MRI typically takes about 30 minutes, sometimes longer, depending on your exact medical condition and comfort. You’ll be asked to lie on your back with your hands at your sides or crossed at your chest.  In order to capture the most detailed images, a “coil” may need to be placed near or around the body part being scanned. With a spine scan, the coil wraps directly around your lower abdomen. The coil does not normally touch your body. The technologist will do whatever they can to make you as comfortable as possible. Typically, you’ll enter the scanner feet first.  The technologist will be able to hear you and speak to you throughout your exam. You will also be given a squeeze switch that allows you to alert the technologist, in the event that you are uncomfortable.

You should also be aware that the machine makes clicking or knocking sounds as it produces and records images. The noises can be rather loud, but are normal and are not a concern because your hearing will be protected.  Your exam will take place in several segments or “series.” The technologist will often talk to you between series to let you know how long the next series will be, typically 2-5 minutes.  When the exam is over, you’ll be able to remove your hearing protection and exit the scan room. The technologist will give you back the key to your changing room and you’ll be allowed to change back into your street clothes.

After your exam, you’ll be given a CD with your images that you can take to your doctor and keep for your records.  Your images are sent to the radiologists for interpretation and a detailed report will be sent to your doctor within 24 hours.  Comparison to previous exams of the same body part can delay final reporting if previous exams are not available on or prior to the day of your exam. 

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