I recently traveled to another state to have a "postional" MRI, in my case it was standing and sitting. While the actual facility and personnel were competent, I was very disappointed when I received the written report that was sent to my surgeon.
At first I was just disappointed, but now that I have thought about it for a longer time, I realize that it could also have been very detrimental to my diagnosis and further treatment. I wanted to mention this experience to those of you reading this forum as a cautionary tale.
If I had little experience looking at MRI films and reading radiology reports, I would have concluded that my trip and the positional MRI were a big waste of time. The report that was sent out was almost like a standard, stock form. It was so basic as to be almost meaningless. However, it also contained gross errors. Example: The report stated:
"At L4-5 there is mild disc bulging. No canal stenosis. Mild bilateral neural foraminal narrowing isi present.
At L5-S1, there is no disc bulge, disc herniation or canal stenosis."
I have NO disc at L4-5. It was removed at the time I had a fusion, and I have a Peek cage holding the space open.
At L5-S1 there is a significant bulge that would have been noticable to anyone, and retrolisthesis as well.
Had I not asked for my own copy of the MRI images on disc, I would have assumed that my spine was fine. Had my surgeon been the kind of doctor that relies on the radiology report and merely glancing at the MRI for a couple minutes, he would not have noticed the much more significant findings that DID show up on the standing MRI that were not visible on the standard, lying down MRI. He might not have realized that the source of my pain is coming from the S1 nerve due to the problem at the L5-S1 dis bulge and retrolisthesis.
Luckily, I knew enough to carefully review the written report and the MRI imaging and I suspected what was wrong. I was able to point this out when I met with my surgeon...and we are going to do a little more testing but are confidant we are on the right track to figuring out my lingering source of pain.
I would like to caution everyone to take the time to get copies of their reports and to review them. There are a lot of new, private imaging facilities opening around the country that are somewhat untested. Perhaps they are hiring radiologists to review films that are not as experienced or qualified as those that are employed by hospitals and more established clinics. I am just speculating here --.
MRIs are just one piece of the diagnostic puzzle, but it is nice when they are at least accurately read and reported.
This is just another long example of how we really need to be on top of our own care. Do not assume accuracy. To the extent you can, get and keep your own records, and review them to see if things make sense as best you can. I know we are not doctors, but it behooves us to learn as much as we can about our individual problems. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions -- have them show you on the MRI where the problem is located -- if there's something on your MRI report that doesn't make sense, ask the doctor to explain. We are consumers and we have to be smart about it. I think this is only going to become more important as we move into a new age of healthcare.