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Cervical spine and MRI

The part of the spine that runs through the neck is called cervical spine. It is made of seven vertebrae and eight pairs of spinal nerves, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7 and C8. When a detailed picture of a cervical spine is needed, the best option is to use magnetic resonance imaging, abbreviated MRI.

While the computed tomographic scans and x-rays use radiation, MRI uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create pictures. The magnet in MRI has the magnetic field that is ten thousand times more powerful than that of the earth. First the magnetic field forces the hydrogen atoms to form a line in a certain way and then the radio waves are sent to these atoms. When they reach the atoms, they bounce back and computer records the signals. Thus the MRI slices or set of pictures are obtained.

Test performance

When the patient wears a hospital gown, he/she lies on a narrow table, which is slid in the middle of the magnetic resonance imaging machine. The test usually lasts about an hour or more, and the patient has to lie inside the machine all the time. The person who operates the machine is in the separate room and the patient can always talk to him. In certain cases, the patient should be given a dye in the vein before the test so that the doctors could better see some things on the picture afterwards.

Preparation for the test

Before the MRI test, the person should not drink or eat anything for about six hours. There are people who cannot do the test; for example, people who have certain metallic thing in the body cannot undergo MRI test since the metal tends to interfere with MRI. Furthermore, a diabetic and a claustrophobic should inform the doctor about their condition.

One should know that this test causes no pain. The person within the MRI machine may only feels anxiety since it is necessary to lie there for a long time. However, if there is any problem, he/she can inform the doctor about that and he/she can get a sedative in order to calm down.

Cervical spinal MRI

Cervical MRI is usually ordered when certain symptoms appear. The most common symptoms that require the cervical spine MRI are multiple sclerosis, injury to the spine, birth defects of the spine and infection that includes the spine. Moreover, if a person experiences a neck pain or numbness in the neck, as well as weakness in this region, a cervical spine MRI should be performed. Severe scoliosis, as well as tumor or cancer of the spine is also the condition for which the cervical spine MRI is necessary.

The normal cervical spine MRI results are considered to be the ones showing that the cervical spine and surrounding nerves are normal in appearance. If the results are not good, then they indicate certain spinal diseases or disorders.

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