Cervical MRI

Uses energy from strong magnets to create pictures of the part of the spine that runs through the neck area (cervical spine).

  • To detect inflammation, tumors and other masses, and other abnormalities in the head and neck region, including the mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat (pharynx), sinuses, nasal cavities, vocal cords (larynx), and ear
  • To investigate the cause of hearing loss and detect soft tissue damage in the inner ear
  • To determine the extent of head or neck tumors before treatment for cancer, and to monitor the area for recurrence after cancer therapy
  • To help diagnose developmental anomalies of the brain; vascular anomalies of the head (e.g., aneurysm); eye, inner ear and pituitary gland disorders and diseases; stroke; chronic nervous system disorders, such as multiple sclerosis; and headaches.

Preparation:

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4 to 6 hours before the scan.

Tell your health care provider if you are afraid of closed spaces (have claustrophobia). You may be given a medicine to help you feel sleepy and less anxious. Your provider may suggest an "open" MRI, in which the machine is not as close to the body.

Before the test, tell your health care provider if you have:

  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Certain types of artificial heart valves
  • Heart defibrillator or pacemaker
  • Inner ear (cochlear) implants
  • Kidney disease or dialysis (you may not be able to receive contrast)
  • Recently placed artificial joints
  • Certain types of vascular stents

Worked with sheet metal in the past (you may need tests to check for metal pieces in your eyes)

Because the MRI contains strong magnets, metal objects are not allowed into the room with the MRI scanner:

  • Pens, pocketknives, and eyeglasses may fly across the room.
  • Items such as jewelry, watches, credit cards, and hearing aids can be damaged.
  • Pins, hairpins, metal zippers, and similar metallic items can distort the images.
  • Removable dental work should be taken out just before the scan.

 

The procedure

You will wear a hospital gown or clothes without metal zippers or snaps (such as sweatpants and a t-shirt). Make sure you take off your watch, jewelry and wallet. Some types of metal can cause blurry images.

You will lie on a narrow table that slides into a tunnel-shaped scanner.

Some exams use a special dye (contrast). Most of the time, you will get the dye through a vein in your arm or hand before the test. The dye can also be given through an injection. The dye helps the radiologist see certain areas more clearly.

During the MRI, the person who operates the machine will watch you from another room. The test most often lasts 30 to 60 minutes, but may take longer.

The most common reasons for an abnormal result are:

  • Herniated or "slipped" disc (cervical radiculopathy)
  • Narrowing of the cervical spine (spinal stenosis)
  • Abnormal wear of the bones and cartilage in the neck (cervical spondylosis)
  • Abnormal results may also be due to:
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Disk inflammation (diskitis)
  • Infection of the spine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury or compression
  • Spinal fracture
  • Spinal tumor

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