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Help Understanding an MRI

Started by ShelliBiggs on 01/06/2020 12:21pm


I have been suffering from lower back pain for almost 30 years. I finally was able to get a MRI done almost a month ago. My doctor keeps telling me they haven't gotten my results yet. I am in between doctors right now due to an insurance issue. So I dont know if them not receiving it is due to them forwarding my charts to the new doctor or what. So i called the imaging center myself and got the results emailed to me today.
I was wondering if someone could help me understand what it is saying since i am in between doctors right now.

Findings: Normal height alignment of the lower thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. the conus is normal.

The L1-2 and L2-3 disc space level are unremarkable.

L3-4: Disc desiccation, a mild disc bulge and a few mid annular tears. Mild facet degenerative changes. The foramina are patent.

L4-5: Mild disc space height loss and a mild to moderate disc bulge and a few annular tears and mild facet degenerative changes and minimal narrowing of the thecal sac and lateral recessess. the foramina are patent.

L5-S1: Moderate disc space height loss and a moderate broad-based central disc protrusion without mass effect on the L5 or S1 nerve roots.

1. Moderate broad-based central disc protrusion at L5-S1 without overt neural impingment.
2. Mild disc bulges and facet degenerative changed at L3-4 and L4-5.

Thanks in advanced!

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3 Responses


Hi Shelli, I'm not sure if I can be of too much help with interpreting your results but I did want to say that I had some very similar comments on my own... mild disc bulge and degenerative changes. My doctor said it basically just showed "wear and tear" but I know there is something more serious seeing as I have such bad pain in my lower body and cannot walk or stand for long periods.

I read your results as indicating a moderate disc bulging in L5 to S1 area but not blocking/pinching nerves, but not herniated and 2) mild disc bulges at L3-4 and L4-5. Seems to me like that could definitely cause pain. One thing I will also mention is that when I had my test I was lying down flat, which is the position that often gives me the most relief, and I wondered myself if my discs were bulging far more in a standing position which would not show up on my MRI.

Might be worth exploring with your doctor if they do tell you that there isn't anything too "alarming" on your MRI or that there is no evidence of any severe problems that would cause you pain... seems like a disc bulge would do it!! Especially if it shows bulging while in a lying position. I do know there are places that do upright MRIs which is what I've been looking into. Good luck with things and all the best


I'm not a medical professional but I have some of the same symptoms that you do (though yours sound a lot worse then mine). The radiologist's report says my conditions are severe in several ways. So I've been asking doctors and surgeons for the last 4 yrs if these severe conditions indicate that I should talk to a spinal surgeon, and in every case until recently, I was essentially told "severe" doesn't mean "severe", and I shouldn't worry about the situation until I start having symptoms.

Odd response given that in each case I had opened the conversation with the doctor by describing decades of brutal neck pain. Isn't persistent neck pain a "symptom" ?

So I just kept asking, who else should I talk to or where should I go with the problem? The newest surgeon I've talked to recently opened the conversation by telling me I absolutely need surgery, and I should have it done as soon as possible. Then she proceeded to show me exactly where the problems show up in an MRI of my neck, Then she tells me how it will progress and impact my life if it is not fixed, along with describing how they do the operation and what are the possible outcomes of surgery.

I'm impressed with her, because everything she told me and showed me made sense. I'm also in shock concerning that her recommendations are so different from every other recommendation that I've gotten. This surgery is no picnic, but the alternatives are worse.

The moral of the story: be persistent about asking for information and asking questions, until you find someone who listens well and makes sense when they talk.

I expect I'll have the operation, but need more information still before I schedule it.

Good luck. I figured out how to read the MRI's by myself, but I do technology for a living. If you aren't that technical I would bet that some of the medical web sites, and uTube, probably have video's about how to navigate the MRI results. When they send you the images, there will also be software on the disk that you can use to open the MRI and navigate through it.


Here is a very good site to learn from , I found out I had HIZ in my disc and end plate changes that were not on the MRI report.


He will even go over the MRI with you