An annular tear occurs when the tough exterior of a spinal disc, called the annulus fibrosus, rips or tears. If your doctor believes that you have experienced an annular tear, an MRI could be required to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, a patient is referred to an imaging center where the test is completed upon appointment. An MRI, or magnetic resonance imagery, is an advanced test that provides doctors with 2-D and 3-D views of the soft tissue in the body. MRIs enable physicians to identify the cause, severity and location of spine degeneration, such as an annular tear, more precisely than ever before.
What to expect from an MRI
Here is what you can expect during an MRI to diagnose an annular tear:
- You will be instructed to remove all metallic items, and the physician will double check to make sure you have not received any surgical implant or a pacemaker that is not safe for MRI use.
- Occasionally, you will be injected with an intravenous dye before the MRI to increase the contrast between similar tissues.
- During the scan, your head will be stabilized while you are lying down.
- You will be instructed to remain completely motionless throughout the scan.
- You will be put into the MRI scanner, which resembles a big tube, and the technician will turn on the magnets.
- The technician, who is in another room behind glass, begins the MRI scan and can communicate with you using a microphone.
- Sometimes you can use earplugs to drown out the sound of the magnets.
- MRI scans usually take between 30 and 60 minutes and are completely painless.
The benefits of an MRI
Like a CT scan or an X-ray, an MRI is an excellent diagnostic test that has a number of applications. MRI is much better at imaging soft, water-containing structures than a CT scan or conventional X-rays. This benefit makes an MRI better for diagnosing an annular tear. MRI scans produce images on multiple planes in grayscale. These images clearly show the relationship between vertebrae, spinal discs, facet joints, supporting musculature and other aspects of the spinal anatomy, which make achieving an annular tear diagnosis more precise than with other noninvasive tests.
Patients diagnosed with a annular tear can often find relief through conservative treatments, such as physical therapy or chiropractic care, but may resort to surgery if pain becomes severe and other therapies are not effective. If you are in this position, contact USA Spine Care to learn about the minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgeries we offer to treat annular tears and other spine conditions.
We’ll be happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.