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What is a Neck MRI?

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  • Written By: V. Cassiopia
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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A neck MRI produces images of the neck between the upper area of the spine and the head region. It shows the structure of the neck vertebrae—the bones in the part of the spinal column ending just below the skull—, along with cartilage, ligaments and nerves. While most of this type of body scanning is made while at rest, scans can also be made of the neck and other regions during movement, which is referred to as dynamic imaging.

A magnetic resonance imaging scan, or MRI, is a procedure used to find out what the bones and ligaments look like inside the body. An MRI scan uses magnetism to create detailed three-dimensional images of particular regions of the body. Scans can be made of almost any region of the body, such as a knee scan, a shoulder scan, or a brain scan.

MRI scanning is also called diagnostic scanning, since these are generally conducted after a prescription has been issued by a medical practitioner. A neck MRI may be requested for several reasons, including checking for injuries or disk problems, such as herniation or bulging disks. One may also be requested simply due to complaints of ongoing neck pain without other obvious causes. Pain caused by whiplash injuries of the neck tends to be a major type of complaint by persons who have been involved in car accidents and may necessitate a neck MRI.

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These scans are usually expensive, and other types of diagnostic tests, including x-rays and laboratory tests, will generally be requested before this kind of imaging is used. Certain types of individuals may also not be able to undergo an MRI scan due to an allergy, such as when a dye needs to be injected before scanning. Dyes, however, are usually not injected for bone studies, but are necessary to clarify details on imaging of internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas, or spleen.

Individuals with cardiac pacemakers are also precluded from having an MRI due to magnetic interference. Others who may also be unable to undergo MRI studies include individuals with metal implants, such as some cardiac stents or joint replacements. Formerly, many people were unable to have a neck MRI or MRI of the upper body due to claustrophobia. This has been resolved with the development of “open MRIs,” machines with large, flat disks that hover over individuals instead of enclosing them within a narrow tube.

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