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In early stages, but marked difference between a CT scan, a 4 year gap, and an MRI... what's happeni

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Spinal Stenosis
I had been experiencing some numbness in my left foot, buttock, and part of the leg (welcome to siatica..lol) I had a CT scan (2005) done which showed L3/4 unremarkable, L4/5 focal disc protrusion without causing spinal or neural foraminal stenosis, L5/S1 unremarkable. So this was good. Did a lot of IMS treatments which helped. Over the next couple of years the pain gradually became more prominent, and numbness spread to across the buttocks, groin, both legs and feet. Had an MRI done (2009) and the results i'll post below. I know that the results are mild compared to most of the members here, but what concerns me is the difference between the two tests without additional injury. What is causing the degeneration? Will it continue to worsen? What are some options I should be looking into?
Any answers are welcomed, thanks for your time in advance :)
I guess I should mention I am a 27 year old Female in otherwise good health.


L3/4: Early lateral recess stenosis is suspected on the left by posterior facetal spur formation.

L4/5: Disc Height and signal is reduced with diffuse disc bulge and small area of central annular tear. Exit foraminal caliber on the left is mildly reduced by posterior facetal spur formation. Early lateral recess stenosis on each side is suspected.

L5/S1: Disc height and signal is normal. There is a mild diffuse disc bulge. No foraminal stenosis nor significant lateral recess stenosis.



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,842
    vast differences between MRIs a few years apart without having any imparent new spinal problems.
    Its easier to understand that if there were these changes and they could be traced to some new spinal problem.
    Sometimes its the nature of the beast. Our spines really start to age a little after we turn 25. Degnerative Disc Disease and to an extend Stenosis are results of our spines getting older. Almost every person will show some signs of DDD, some of Stenosis by the time they are 27. Some have it earlier and more advanced due to Trauma, prior surgery or genetic conditions.
    I would touch base with your doctor to better understand WHY the differences in your MRI reports only a few years apart.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • If you compare the reports, level by level, there really isn't THAT much difference. It could be that the MRI is showing a bit more detail, or it could be as simple as different radiologists seeing or even commenting on the reports. You could have two radiologists reading the same MRI and end up with different reports.

    You might want to read about DDD here:


    In addition to the forum, there are many useful articles and videos written by spinal specialists on this website. You might want to familiarize yourself with conditions that are mentioned in your imaging tests. When you see a spinal specialist, you will better understand what s/he tells you, and will be better able to participate in treatment decision.

    Again, welcome --

  • Firstly, thanks PapaRon and gwennie for posting :)
    I checked out the link on DDD it was really informative, but it didn't seem to really address the numbness and leg pain I have. At this point the lower back pain is chronic and I've learned to deal with it, but the aching numbness in my legs, feet, buttocks, and 'underneath' (lol) area is quite bothersome. The last two toes on my left foot are almost always numb and the ache in the back of my legs is really intense. I find too that sitting is much better for me than standing, and that when I lay down at night, for the first few minutes it is the worse pain of the entire day.(does anyone else feel this way?). I am confused by this whole thing, and I could handle the pain better if the numbness didn't frighten me so much.
    I should stop rambling or this will be the most run-on post ever!
    Do either of you deal with the nerve impingement? How do you best take care of it? Any insight or advice would be greatly appreciated. :)
    Oh, and do you think I should be asking for a referral to a specialist, or should I handle things with a GP? I'm on a waiting list for a family doctor.
    Thanks again.
  • Hi UV,

    I had similar symptoms before surgery, and yes, when I first went to bed, it took a good while before I could get somewhat comfortable. Think it has something to do w/ the tension & stress your body undergoes physically, emotionally, pyschologically when you are in pain, muscles tighten up, chemical changes occur that impact the whole body and when you finally relax it's almost like a charley horse type sensation except in your back. Sitting for me for any length of time was impossible, I did best with standing or sometimes walking. As far as the nerve impingement goes, I believe you need to get a referral to a fellowship trained neurologist or orthopedist whose practices focus on the back/spine so that a complete assessment can be done and a plan for treatment(s) can be developed. You mention numbness 'underneath' and in the groin, are you having any problems w/ urinary/bowel continence? If so, please consider it a medical emergency as it's a symptom of cauda equina syndromw which should be addressed ASAP. See these links for dermatone chart & cauda equina:



    Please keep us posted.

  • Thanks for your post pfd.. the dermatoms link was really interesting, as for the cauda equina thing, so far my urinary/bowel continence isn't being affected, except i've noticed I don't get the urge to urinate in the early stages anymore, it seems as though once my bladder starts to pain a little because it's full I realize I have to go. I will be sure to mention this to my doctor though. I will, in the meantime be aware of further symptoms, so thank you.

    I wasn't sure whether I was at the stage of seeing a specialist yet, I moved provinces before my MRI results were back, so my doctor's nurse faxed the report to me, I haven't yet seen a doctor with the results in hand.

    Thanks too for the personal insight into the pain at night, it makes quite a lot of sense, and I'm sorry we have/had that in common!

    Again, thanks everyone for reading and commenting and I really hope that today finds you all in less pain than usual.. would make for a great day :)

  • If you read up on stenosis, you will understand how a spinal nerve can be pinched. This refers pain out to the extremeties, in your case to your leg. This compression can cause all kinds of symptoms-- everything from mild tingling to total numbness, loss of reflexes and foot drop.

    When you have DDD, there can be changes in the discs and also changes in the vertebrae. Often there is a bit of spinal arthritis, or little bony growths that can grow along the edges of a vertebrae. They take up space in the foraminal openings, which are openings that the spinal nerves use to exit the spinal cord. When there are bony growths taking up some of the space, the nerve can become compressed or "pinched." This type of thing can also happen when there are disc bulges or herniations. The nerve becomes affected; it can be irritated or inflamed. All these conditions can cause pain that is referred to as "sciatic-type" pain. It often is in the hip or buttocks, can run down the leg and into the foot or toe.

    Even though the numbness is scary, it usually goes away when the nerve compression resolves or is resolved.

    Hope this helps your understand why you have the numbness, etc. in your foot and leg.



  • Glad it helped, you might try a warm bath or a short session w/ a moist heat heating pad (15-20 mins) before bed, this sometimes helped me. Hope you're seen soon and get some resolution to the problems you're having. Please let us know how it goes.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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