What is Thoracic Spine MRI?
A thoracic spine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a painless radiology exam. This is performed to examine the cause of pain in the middle back (thoracic spine) and its surrounding areas in a non-invasive manner.
In this scan, multiple images of the blood vessels and soft tissues of the middle back are generated using radio waves and a strong magnetic field.
The thoracic spine MRI helps doctors in diagnosing problems of the spinal cord, bones, and nerves in the back. It also helps in diagnosing fractures, infections, tumors, swelling, bleeding, structural, or developmental abnormalities in the middle spine or surrounding areas.
The MRI of the middle back may be done with or without the use of contrast material (dye) that is injected into the veins. When the contrast material is used, the blocked blood vessels are seen more clearly in the scanned images.
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Who Should Get a Thoracic Spine MRI?
Your doctor may recommend a thoracic spine MRI if you have one or more of the following symptoms or ailments:
- Severe pain in the middle back
- Injury to the middle back
- Numbness or weakness in one leg
- Loss of reflexes
- Stiffness on the back, arms, shoulders, and legs
- History of the brain or spinal cancer
- Difficulty in passing urine or stools
- Difficulty in controlling urine or stools
- Difficulty with walking and maintaining body balance
- Birth defects of the spine
- Had surgery to the middle spine within the past 10 years
What is the Purpose of a Thoracic Spine MRI?
Your doctor may recommend a thoracic spine MRI to:
- Diagnose the cause of unusual pain in the middle back.
- Assess swelling and compression of the nerves and spinal cord.
- Detect infection of the spinal cord and its coverings (meninges).
- Check the structure and alignment of the spinal cord and bones.
- Detect birth defects and abnormalities of the spinal cord.
- Assess diseases of the middle back such as:
- Thoracic disc herniation (the disc, which connects the spine bones, breaks and creates pressure against one or more of the spinal nerves that cause severe pain in the back)
- Sciatica (middle back pain runs down into the middle of legs)
- Multiple sclerosis (a disease that damages the central nervous system and affects the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves)
- Look for tumor or growth on or around the spinal cord.
- Monitor injury to the middle back after an accident.
- Help plan an operation on the middle back.
- Monitor the changes in the middle back after an operation that was done within the past 10 years.
Your doctor may also ask you to take the Cervical Spine MRI (Neck) and Lumbar Spine MRI (Lower Back) to confirm the diagnosis for abnormalities in the rest of the spine. Your doctor may even recommend a Prostate Test (PSA) to screen for prostate cancer. Depending on the results, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.
How Is a Thoracic Spine MRI Performed?
- Before starting the MRI of the middle back, you will have to remove all the metal objects on your body, including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures.
- A technologist will ask you to lie still on the MRI scanner table, which will move slowly through a doughnut-shaped MRI machine.
- Once you are inside the MRI machine, multiple images of your middle back will be taken, and these will be displayed on a monitor.
- At certain points during the scan, the technologist will ask you to hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds. Make sure you don’t move during the scan as any movement can blur the images.
In case, your doctor has asked you to take a thoracic spine MRI with contrast, then contrast dye will be injected into your vein shortly after an initial series of scans. Additional images will be taken following the injection.
How Long Does a Thoracic Spine MRI Take?
An MRI of the thoracic spine is usually completed between 30 to 60 minutes.
Is Radiation Involved in a Thoracic Spine MRI?
No. An MRI is a painless imaging test that doesn’t use radiation.
Are There Any Risks in Taking a Thoracic Spine MRI?
- People who have implants such as a cardiac pacemaker, coronary stent, orthopedic rods, and plates, which contain metal, may face certain risks. The magnets used in an MRI can make implanted pins or screws move in the body or cause problems with pacemakers.
- Some people might also have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in an MRI.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Once the thoracic spine MRI is completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How Should I Prepare for a Thoracic Spine MRI?
Please refer to the simple preparation guidelines given below or consult with your doctor or radiology center where you are being treated. Do not forget to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.