ZocdocAnswersWhat does my MRI report mean?

Question

What does my MRI report mean?

Preserved vertebral bodies’ height, shape and their bone marrow signal intensities. Maintained height and signal intensity of the other examined discs, with no disc bulges or herniations. The visualized terminal part of spinal cord and conus medullaris are of normal configuration and signal characteristics. The bony spinal canal displays normal width. No para spinal soft tissue abnormality detected.

Answer

MRI reports can be challenging to understand, even for many physicians who may not have specific training in their interpretation. With that in mind, it is always best to discuss the results with a specialist who can not only discuss the imaging with you, but also provide an explanation in the context of your symptoms and physical examination findings. The portion of the report that you have included describes a normal examination -- that is to say, one with no evidence of a problem. Vertebral bodies are the bones that make up the rigid portion of your spine, and the fact that they are of normal height/shape indicates that there are no problems with the bones such as fractures. It is these bones that also form the spinal canal, which is of normal width according to the report. Inter-vertebral discs are the "shock absorbers" that sit between the bones in the spine. Disc bulges/herniations are when there are damage to these "shock absorbers" that can lead to pressure on the spinal cord or nerves that come off of it. You may also have heard the term "slipped disc", which refers to a disc bulge/herniation. The terminal spinal cord and conus medullaris are the medical names for the end of the spinal cord. These are also interpreted as normal by the radiologist who read your MRI. Para-spinal soft tissues are the muscles and ligaments (the structures that help to hold the bones in the correct position) that run alongside the bones (vertebral bodies) in the spine. Problems in this area can indicate muscle or ligament injury. "Signal intensity" describes the spectrum of color that is seen on the MRI images themselves (whether gray, black, or white), and each type of tissue has a specific signal intensity that is considered normal. Changes in the signal intensity of a tissue on MRI can indicate a disease process, but thankfully your report showed that the signal intensity of the bones, inter-vertebral discs, and spinal cord itself are all normal. Although the MRI was read as normal, it does not mean that you are without symptoms that may benefit from treatment. Depending on your particular complaints, you may require consultation with either a pain medicine specialist, physical therapist, or sports medicine doctor. I would discuss referral to one of these providers with the doctor that ordered the MRI when you make an appointment.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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