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"What does my MRI report mean?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat does my MRI report mean?


"At L5-S1 there is a central extruded herniated disc protruding 7mm measuring 14mm across its base. It elevates the epidural fat and impinges upon the thecal sac and touches the S1 root." Is this bad enough that it would require surgery?


You should discuss this question with the physician who ordered the test. If your doctor has ordered an MRI of your lower back, you must have been suffering from some significant back pain. One of the most common causes of lower back pain is the kind of herniated disc described in your MRI. In very basic terms, the intervertebral discs are a connective tissue support for the column of vertebrae. Over time, these discs can herniate out from between the vertebrae causing problems with vertebral alignment and nerve impingement. Nerve roots project from the right and left of the spinal cord, and their exit from the spinal cord itself must traverse the vertebrae. When intervertebral discs herniate, they can exert pressure on these spinal nerves, causing significant pain and immobility. Your MRI report tells you that the disc between your 5th lumbar vertebrae and 1st sacral vertebrae is impinging on the nerve root that leaves the spinal cord at the level of the 1st sacral vertebrae. However, whether or not this will need to translate into surgery depends upon your clinical exam and discussion with your physician. In many cases, conservative treatment (such as rest, physical therapy, and medication) has much better outcomes for lower back pain than does invasive surgery. Now that you've had this imaging study, the best thing for you to do is to return to the physician who ordered the test to go over the results and discuss whether you are a candidate for surgery or whether or not conservative treatment would be more appropriate. Your physician may also want to refer you to a surgeon who specializes in back surgery. Please discuss with your doctor soon.

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