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MRI results-What does it all mean?

calliesbacccalliesbac Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I was told today that I needed to make an apt with a Spine Specialist.Until that time I was hoping someone could give me a clue as to what all of this means (I'm gathering herniated disk, bulging disk, spinal stenosis). But, can any of this be treated nonsurgically??? I've tried the physical therapy route prior to the x-ray with no success.

At L3/L4, there is a bulging disk causing mild compression of the thecal sac and mild biforaminal narrowing.

At L4/L5, there ia diffusely bulging disk compressing the thecal sac and causing mild left and moderate right foraminal narrowing. There are degenerative changes of the facet joints.

At L5/S1, there is a left paracentral annular fissure and disc protrusion contacting the left S1 nerve root> The neural formaine are patent.


  • Unfortunately, we are not able to formally interpret MRI reports here. A spine specialist will be the one to help you with this.

    Have they tried epidural steroid injections yet? I found that water therapy helped me a great deal.

    Best wishes,

  • Hey there, just like Marrianne said, none of us can really read the MRI. And, to guess what the doctor might tell you is also a stretch because doctors combine the report with your symptoms and history.

    That being said, there is always a non-surgical option. It sounds like you want to be prepared with some questions.

    First, it's great they are sending you to a specialist. It doesn't mean the Orthopedic Spine surgeon or Neurosurgeon will say surgery. It means they specialize in the spine and can answer more questions than your general practioner can.

    Your specialist should review the results, s/he should do some mechanical tests (reflexes, strength, etc.) ask you some questions, etc. From there, they'll be able to make a suggestion.

    Here's what I was plan for. Whatever the doctor suggests for treatment to help your symptoms improve...plan to ask "Ok, if this doesn't work, what would you suggest?" Of course if they suggest Physical Therapy...they are trying very conservative treatment. You may want to ask, is there a prescription anti-inflammatory to help? If they recommend injections or an oral steroid, you migth want to ask if it's worth trying something more conservative like PT or NSAIDS first.

    I am rambling but I always ask for the option 1 step more conservative and one step more aggressive.

    My only recommendation (and this is my personal opinion) is that with the lower back (Lumbar), try for conservative...surgery is a slippery slope. If you start conservative and be patient...you always will have surgery as an option down the road (which hopefully you'll never need).
  • I had some success with traction.
    This is where you lay down on a table and get strapped in to a harness. The table pulls you apart in opposite directions at the lumbar spine.

    MRI reports are only the interpretation of the radiologist. It's just an opinion and certainly not the be all and all of your case. MRIs are definitely great, but they don't tell the whole story.

    Look around the www.chirogeek.com site for more in depth explanations. It's a lot of reading but worth it.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hi ~ I can tell you what it means, but you should ask your doctor:
    L3-4 the disc is compressing the thecal sac - that is a membrane of dura matter that surrounds the spinal cord & the cauda equina & is filled with spinal fluid. You also have foraminal narrowing - that's the hole that the nerves pass thru to the spinal cord.

    L4-5 Same as above plus degenerative changes of the facet joints. The facets are those "wing-like" bony structures on both sides of your spine - you can see them if you hunch your back.

    L5-S1 Left paracentral annular fissure (thats a fluid filled sac that the disc sits in) and a herniated disc contacting the S1 nerve root.

    Hope this makes a little more sense. Hugs, Lee
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