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What do the words on my MRI mean?

If you are injured or develop pain in your back, neck or joints, your primary care physician, the ER physician at a hospital, or an urgent care doctor may recommend you have an MRI.  About 30,000 MRI scans are performed every year, many of those of the back, neck and joints.  Magnetic resonance imaging is a form of medical imaging particularly useful in seeing the body's internal structure.  Contrast provided by MRI scans provide excellent visual  detail of soft tissues and the ability to distinguish between tissue types.

MRI scans are analyzed by radiologists - physicians trained to assess medical imaging like x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans.  Radiologists then prepare reports of their findings for the patient's family physician or surgeon to review.

Many of you will find terms cited in an MRI report to be difficult to make sense of as they are medical terminology not normally used in day-to-day conversation.  For example, an MRI report may say: 'C3-C4 has disc space dessication', or mention 'severe bilateral foraminal stenosis', or that there is 'broad based disc osteophyte complex'.

If you see those terms or any of the following on your MRI, you can look them up on our website under Glossary and Frequently Asked Questions:  herniated disc, bulging disc, spinal stenosis, foraminal narrowing, disc osteophyte complex, annular tear, foraminal encroachment, vertebral compression, degenerative disc disease, facet arthropathy, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis.

These terms may signal significant medical issues that require precise diagnosis and treatment  If you would like a professional medical opinion, please click on Free MRI Review to have a personalized review of your MRI report and images.


Ara J. Deukmedjian, MD

Board Certified Neuro-Spine Surgeon

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, UCF School of Medicine


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