Brain and Spine MRI
MRI and MR Angiography (MRA) of the Brain
MRI is in many cases the diagnostic method of choice for evaluating a variety of symptoms from headaches to seizures, hearing and visual loss to loss of consciousness, and strokes. MRI is also used to evaluate lesions seen but not fully assessed by CT.
Physicians perform MRI to:
- Examine the anatomy of the brain and the arteries of the brain
- Help assess the effects of stroke, trauma or degenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s) on brain function
- Monitor the growth and regression of brain tumors
- Guide the planning of surgery, radiation therapy, or other surgical treatments for the brain
- Assess for aneurysms and vascular malformations
- Assess for arterial abnormalities that can cause strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or ministrokes)
Brain MRI/MRA is typically performed in a head coil that looks somewhat like a hockey face mask. It requires no special preparation.
MRI and MR Angiography (MRA) of the Neck
MRI of the neck can be used to assess for infections or masses in the neck, including lymph nodes, salivary glands and vascular masses.
MRA of the neck can be used to assess for blockages in the neck that can cause strokes, as well as blood supply to masses in the head and neck.
MRI of the Spine
Spine MRI is performed to:
- Assess spinal anatomy and alignment
- Detect congenital anomalies of vertebrae or the spinal cord
- Detect bone, disc, ligament or spinal cord injury after spine trauma
- Assess intervertebral disk disease (degenerated, bulging or herniated) and intervertebral joint disease, both frequent causes of severe lower back pain and sciatica (back pain radiating into lower leg)
- Explore other possible causes of back pain (compression fracture or bone swelling, such as edema)
- Assess compression of spinal cord and nerves
- Assess inflammation of the spinal cord or nerves
- Assess infection involving the spine, disks and spinal contents, including spinal cord or its coverings (meninges)
- Assess tumors that arise from or have spread to the vertebrae, spinal cord, nerves or the surrounding soft tissues
- Help plan spinal surgical procedures, such as decompression of a pinched nerve, spinal fusion, or the injection of steroids to relieve spinal pain (such injections are usually performed under CT guidance)
- Monitor changes in the spine after an operation, such as scarring or infection
Radiologyinfo.org for Patients
The radiology information resource for patients. RadiologyInfo.org tells you how various X-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, radiation therapy and other procedures are performed. It also addresses what you may experience and how to prepare for the exams. The website contains over 200 procedure, exam and disease descriptions covering diagnostic and interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy and radiation safety and is updated frequently with new information. All material on the RadiologyInfo.org website is reviewed and approved by experts in the field of radiology from the ACR and RSNA, as well as other professional radiology organizations.