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MagicPotion 03-14-2011 01:23 AM

Understanding MRI Results?
I was recently diagnosed with these back/spine problems. The doctor did explain some of what is going,but the whole time it felt like a blur because I was so upset and nervous. I'm seeing a specialist soon. In the mean time is there anyone that can help me understand what is wrong with my back, or give any advice etc? My doctor told me it's bad! How bad is bad in my case??

Here is the run down on my MRI

multilevel servre facet arthropathy
servere degenerative disk disease at L5-S1
servere central canal stenosis
multilevel posterior disk protrusions

twohands 03-14-2011 07:34 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?

As you can see, severe is mentioned to describe several problems in your back. Many surgeons won't do surgery unless the condition is severe.

Facet arthropathy is basically degeneration/arthritis of the facet joints. At each spine level, you have the disc and two facet joints (one on each side) which allow you to bend and twist at that level. Your facet joints are basically shot at several levels. This condition can be fixed by a spinal fusion at that level.

Degenerative disk disease at L5-S1 - at the lowest level of your spine you have severe degeneration of the disc. This basically means the disc is dried up and has lost height which can pinch nerves at that level then.

Central canal stenosis - stenosis basically means narrowing, so your central canal where your nerve roots go through is narrowed which can cause nerve pinching.

Multilevel posterior disk protrusions - at several levels you have disc protrusions where the outer rim of the discs are protruding into your central canal where your nerves are, and where you already have narrowing (stenosis).

You basically have narrow areas for your nerves and nerve roots to travel through due to the several factors above. This means you are likely experiencing both back and leg pain. Surgery would likely be the only option which could give you significant relief.

How bad is your pain and where is your pain located at?

The funny thing is someone with an innocent-sounding MRI can need surgery and be in bad pain, where someone with a nasty-sounding MRI can function for years without having surgery. Just because your MRI is bad doesn't necessarily mean you need surgery immediately. However, bad-sounding MRI's are far more likely to need surgery of course.

You're the only one who can decide if and when you're ready for surgery, but most likely the surgeon you will be seeing is going to recommend surgery for you.

maltluver 03-14-2011 11:07 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
Twohands has given you a good case scenerio. You do have multiple problems in your spine and are probably experiencing some nerve pain. If I were you I would get at least 2 opinions as to the proper treatment and what kind of surgery is recommended. The best doctors to do this, of course, is Orthopedic Spine Specialists and neurosurgeons....both should be fellowship trained and limit their practice to the spine. Personally, I prefer an Ortho spine specialist as I find them more "down to earth" and willing to go into detail with their patients. Of course, that is only my experience and there are plenty of people who swear by their neurosurgeon. Only you can decide what doctor best suits you and you can do that by seeing several specialists before deciding on a course of action.

Researching the terms in the MRI will be helpful so that you have a better understanding of what is going on.

I hope you will continue posting and keep us updated on how things are going. Best of luck to you.


MagicPotion 03-15-2011 12:07 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
Twohands you gave me more information than the doctor, thanks! You info helped me understand everything so much better. My pain is in my back down my legs and on the right side in my hip area.

Maltluver thanks for the advice. My only problem is due to my insurance. I'm limited to who I can see. My doctor has to ok everything for me to see specialty doctors. He did mention options when I got my MRI results. I'm hoping that includes seeing an ortho doctor.

maltluver 03-15-2011 03:54 PM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
Just be sure that the dr. you are referred to is a spine specialist. There is a vast difference between an Ortho and an Orthopedic Spine Specialist. A spine specialist, both neurosurgeon and Ortho specialist treat only spine issues and don't do hips, knees, etc. This insures that you will be getting a doctor with training and experience in the spine.

Please stay in touch.


MagicPotion 03-30-2011 01:34 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
Carol,I thought about you. I've recenlty been referred to a neurosurgery appointment. It's not for a while. I don't know the reason for that,or what my first appointment will be like. It's in the works so, that's a good thing. Of course it scares me a little!

maltluver 03-30-2011 10:01 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
It is a bit scary, isn't it? I can still remember my first appointment with a spine specialist and I was a wreck going in, believe me. Unfortunately, I wasn't well versed in issues concerning the spine and blindly agreed to surgery since that's what the neurosurgeon advised. It was not the right thing to do! If I knew then just half of what I know now, I would have gotten at least 1 more opinion, maybe 2, and one of them would have been an orthopedic spine specialist.

In hindsight, I realize that the surgery was possibly unavoidable, but there was no other options offered to me. Afterwards, I continued to have a good deal of pain, sometimes worse than before the surgery. After much prodding, the neuro agreed to more testing and said I had re-herniated that same disc and another laminectomy was needed. Again, I agreed and that began my long journey.

Since you have time before seeing the specialist, try keeping a diary that records your pain levels....what you were doing, what makes the pain worse, what helps the pain, where the pain is and what kind of pain it is. That will help paint a picture for the doctor and along with your test results, will help him to offer options for treatment. Do get at least a second opinion, not from a dr. in the same practice. Since this first appt is with a neurosurgeon, it would be good to get your second opinion from an ortho who specializes in spine and devotes his practice to the spine only.

There is tons of information on the internet that can help you understand what is going on, and what kind of treatment might be helpful. Learning some of the terms will allow you to interact with the surgeon better and will also make you more comfortable.

One last thing....I have always found it helpful to have another person with me. That second set of ears helps, and I have found most doctors to be more forthcoming when there is a "witness" so to speak.

I hope you will stay in touch and keep us updated on how you are doing.

Best wishes.


MagicPotion 04-01-2011 01:42 AM

Re: Understanding MRI Results?
Hey Carol,I totally agree with you, doctors treat you diff if you have someone come with you. I also agree with getting second opinions. My only problem is my insurance. I'm not sure I will be able to. With my old insurance no problem. I want to see an ortho doctor,like you suggested. I'm going to ask my gp on my next appointment what he thinks. But for now I have to be referred before I can see other doctors. I wish I had my old insurance. I will get all the facts first before surgery. I'm so scared I will end up worst off. With my luck, you know it! I'm sorry you had that happen to you. And again your in put has really helped me, and thank you for taking time to answer and show your support. Your great! Have a good weekend :wave:

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