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WHY WOULD I NEED A CERVICAL SPINE MRI?

Mayfair • Mar 22, 2021

The cervical spine is the part of your spine that runs through your neck. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to examine the bones of this part of the spine and the soft tissues of your neck. 

Most often this type of exam is used to help diagnose the cause of symptoms in the neck, such as pain or stiffness. Your health care practitioner may request this scan if pain hasn’t improved with basic treatment or if the pain is accompanied by numbness or weakness. 

MRI is a very detailed type of medical imaging and can show: 

  • Spinal birth defects or other abnormalities, such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis). 
  • Bulging or herniated discs. 
  • An infection in or near the spine. 
  • Injury or trauma to the spine. 
  • Tumours in or near the spine. 
  • Other bone abnormalities, or soft tissue or joint disorders. 

A cervical spine MRI may also be ordered before or after spinal surgery. 

HOW DOES AN MRI WORK? 

An MRI scan creates images by exposing hydrogen atoms in water molecules within our body to a magnetic field which controls the direction and frequency at which hydrogen protons spin. A radio frequency pulse is then directed at a specific area of the body, while smaller magnets are used to alter the magnetic field on a small, but localized level. As tissues responds differently to these magnetic field alterations, a computer can convert the data into a picture. 

MRI is useful for assessing most body areas and is particularly useful as a sensitive, non-invasive way of imaging the brain, spinal cord, or other areas of the body. Importantly, these images are obtained without a radiation dose to the patient. 

An MRI’s magnetic field strength is measured in teslas (T). In Alberta, we recently-installed a new, higher-strength 3 tesla (3T) MRI unit. Mayfair now operates both 1.5T and 3T MRI services at our Mayfair Place location in Calgary. The highly sensitive images from the 3T machine allow enhanced imaging of many areas of the body, including neurological imaging. 

In Saskatchewan, Mayfair Diagnostics recently expanded our MRI services by opening a new, MRI-only clinic in Saskatoon in August 2020. With MRI services now available in Regina and Saskatoon, Mayfair is helping to improve access to MRI services across Saskatchewan.   

ARE THESE EXAMS SAFE? 

MRI images are created using a magnetic field, which can attract metal objects or may cause metal in your body to move. This means that before an MRI can be performed all patients will need to be screened to exclude internal metal objects or hardware that are not safe in the MRI. The inside of the MRI scanner can feel small to some people and there are noises caused by changes in the magnetic field, which require ear protection. 

For some exams, an injectable dye called gadolinium contrast is administered intravenously to highlight a specific area of interest, or directly into a joint (arthrogram). Targeted body areas will absorb the contrast dye, and will glow on the MRI scan, allowing for a more detailed image. There is a risk of allergic reaction to the contrast agent, so you will be asked about your allergies and other medical conditions when booking your exam. 

In Alberta, MRI exams are available in hospitals and covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, but we also offer the same studies as private pay exams. In Saskatchewan, we offer MRIs as a publicly funded, community-based service under contract with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and as a private pay exam. Private MRI services in Saskatchewan are provided in accordance with and under the legislation of the Province of Saskatchewan. 

Whether public or private, an MRI must be requested by a health care practitioner who will provide a requisition. Mayfair Diagnostics will schedule your exam and provide you with detailed information to prepare for it. Once your exam is completed, your images will be reviewed by a specialized radiologist who will compile a report that is sent to your doctor. 

Mayfair Diagnostics is owned and operated by over 50 radiologists who are sub-specialty trained, which guarantees an expert opinion of your imaging. We provide the most number of MRI exams in Calgary. 

Mayfair Diagnostics offers MRI imaging as a private pay service at our Mayfair Place location in Calgary, and as both public and private pay exam at our Saskatoon and Regina locations in Saskatchewan. For more information, please visit our services page or call our toll free number 1-866-611-2665. 

 

REFERENCES 

Healthwise Staff (2019) “MRI of the Cervical Spine: About This Test.” www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Accessed March 9, 2021. 

Donohue, M. (2017) “Cervical MRI Scan.” www.healthline.com. Accessed March 9, 2021. 

Saskatchewan Health Authority (2021) “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).” www.saskhealthauthority.ca. Accessed March 9, 2021. 

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