| Spinal Imaging
With spinal imaging, your spine surgeon can pinpoint the area of problem and
offer you alternative treatments.
X-Rays are used commonly to visualize the bony anatomy of the spine. X-rays
are excellent to check for abnormal motion in the spine.
MRI and CT scans can be used to better evaluate the "soft tissues"
such as the nerves, discs and ligaments. When there is a disc herniation, X-rays
may look completely normal whereas the MRI can show the extent of nerve compression
caused by the disc herniation. Any "red flags"
should lead to immediate studies including X-rays and MRI studies.
The X-ray is that of the lumbar [low back] spine. The vertebrae
are number from 2-5. The disc spaces are in-between the vertebrae. Each disc
space is associated with 2 vertebrae and, therefore, has two numbers for its
name. For example, the white arrow points to the L4/5 disc space. Note the difference
between the L3/4 [black arrow] and L4/5 [white arrow] disc spaces. The white
arrow shows the collapse, "degenerative" disc compared to the "normal"
L3/4 disc space.
Above is an image of an MRI of the lumbar spine [low back]. The
vertebrae are marked with numbers; one can see lumbar vertebrae 2 through 5
and finally the S1 vertebra [which
is the Sacral #1 vertebrae]. The discs are in-between
the vertebrae and are number accordingly. For example, the L3/4 disc has a black
arrow pointing to it. The discs always have 2 numbers for identification. The
Red arrow points to the fluid in spinal canal;
this fluid appears as a whitish color on the MRI. The Blue
arrow points to a nerve roots in the canal.
When you look closely at the discs, you notice that the L5/S1
disc [white arrow] is dark compared to the rest of the discs which are more
whitish in color. The dark disc is considered degenerated and has lost its "normal
The MRI above shows a similar view of the low back. The spinal
canal with the whitish fluid is violated by a large, golf sized disc herniation
as marked with the white arrow. The Red arrow points
to the spinal nerves which are being pushed back by the disc herniation. The
Blue arrow points to the white spinal fluid.
The MRI above shows the spinal canal narrowing at the point of
the two white arrows. The fluid in the canal narrows as a result of "spinal