Computerized tomography (CT) creates a three-dimensional image of a scanned area using a rotating X-ray beam. The procedure is very fast and painless. This useful tool is used for disease screening.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the body. These images can be used to diagnose and investigate disease progression. MRI uses no ionizing radiation and is the best tool to look for neurological cancers and follow-up other cancers.

MRI is recommended for the following indications:

The following general rules are usually considered by a physician before ordering an MRI scan for a patient with back pain, neck pain or leg pain stemming from a spine problem.
  • After 4 to 6 weeks of leg pain, if the pain is severe enough to warrant surgery
  • After 3 to 6 months of low back pain, if the pain is severe enough to warrant surgery
  • For patients who have not done well after having back surgery
  • If the back pain is accompanied by constitutional symptoms (loss of appetite and weight, etc)
If a patient’s symptoms match the indications for an MRI scan, and there are no known risk factors (contraindications), then an MRI scan can potentially be very beneficial.


Contraindications for undergoing an magnetic resonance imaging scan for spine-related pain in the back, neck or leg include:
  • Patients who have a heart pacemaker may not have an MRI scan
  • Who have a metallic foreign body in their eye, or who have an aneurysm clip in their brain
  • Patients with severe claustrophobia may not be able to tolerate an MRI scan
  • If you have metallic devices placed in their back the resolution of the scan is often severely hampered by the metal device and the spine is not well imaged.