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Please help me understand my MRI results

Started by Shannon Lindler... on 01/31/2017 1:03am

Findings : Vertebral bodies are well aligned. There is no fracture or subluxation. Bone marrow signal is grossly unremarkable. There is Schmorl's node formation about the L1-2 disc space. Conus medullaris terminates at the L1 level. There is no distal cord signal abnormality in all sequences.
L1-2: There is no disc herniation or canal stenosis.
L2-3: There is no disc herniation or canal stenosis.
L3-4: There is degenerative disease with minimal disc bulging without significant canal stenosis.
L4-5: There is degenerative disease with minimal disc bulging creating mild canal stenosis when combined with ligamentum flavum hypertrophy and facet degenerative change.
L5-S1: There is degenerative disease and posterior disc bulging with small central protrusion which abuts and mildly indents the thecal sac without significant stenosis. Ther are facet changes demonstrated bilaterally.

Can someone please tell me what this means? I don't think I am getting the whole truth from my doctor, or I am just not understanding. I have been out of work for over a year, under his order. But I have had not gotten better. I can't sit, stand or walk for long periods of time. I have trouble sleeping, if I stay on one side too long my hands and arms go numb. I can't type for very long, my hands will go numb and ache. I am on so many medications and I am just not sure if I should be.

I would just like for someone to please explain in plain english what is going on!!!!

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3 Responses


Hi, Shannon--thank you for your post. You've expressed a frustration so many patients experience-they want their medical professionals to come down from the clinical and be more conversational. We hear you 100%.

We're curious: When you received these MRI results, did your doctor provide any context? Or, were you sent them without having an in-person or phone discussion with a doctor or nurse?

It's your right to know what your test results mean--and that explanation really needs to come from your medical team. You never have to feel like your overstepping your bounds by calling your doctor an asking for an explanation in plain English. Some conversational prompts that come to mind are:
1. What concerns have been highlighted by the MRI?
2. Is there anything in the results that might explain the pain I'm experiencing?
3. What are the next steps?
4. (Not MRI-related but you noted this concern) Can we review my medication list to ensure it's still the best regimen for me?

If you feel your doctor isn't providing you answers or communicating effectively with you, you should feel empowered to find another doctor who better acknowledges your situation. If you need a starting point to find a qualified spine specialist in your area, this tool can help https://www.spineuniverse.com/locate/spe...

Best of luck to you, Shannon!


chirogeek.com will give you all kinds of info on how to read your mri. It was the best I found for this. :)


Having had so many MRI's in my life I can translate a bit. Your L-1 through L-3 are fine, Starting at your L-3 your discs are starting to degenerate, meaning you are starting to lose them. Think of it like a marshmallow that over time starts to disappear.. the disc bulging means that it is pushing out of your spinal column and most likely impinging on your nerves. Without significant canal stenosis means that your spinal canal (also known as spinal stenosis) has no significant closing. Spinal stenosis is a closing of the spinal opening that holds your nerves. The term Ligamentum flavum hypertrophy is certainly a scary one to hear, however it just means enlargement of the connective tissue, and generally doesn't cause any issues. And I can't really say what they are referring to when they say facet degenerative change.....

I really hope this helps you to understand what your MRI results mean a little more.