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MRI results - need help understanding/wondering if anyone has had similar

stewartgemsstewartgem Posts: 7
edited 05/21/2015 - 1:24 AM in Lower Back Pain
OK - so after approx a year and a half of lower back pain with radiculopathy that's only gotten worst (much worst, actually) my new doctor did another MRI. I just got the results back, which are posted below. I am curious if else can help me understand if all this is considered minor or severe, if it makes sense that all this would cause so much pain, or if anyone else has had a similar MRI and, if so, what their resolution was...Did you have surgery? What type? How was recovery?

FINDINGS: There is 2 mm retrolisthesis at L5-S1. Otherwise, there is a smooth physiologic lumbosacral lordotic curve. Vertebral heights appear generally maintained. Disc degeneration is mild at L4-L5 and L5-S1 with dehydration. No worrisome
marrow-replacing lesions are seen. The abdominal aorta is unremarkable. No retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy.

T12-L1 is unremarkable.

L1-L2 is unremarkable.

L2-L3 demonstrates a 1 mm broad disc bulge. No hypertrophic facet DJD. No central canal stenosis or foraminal narrowing.

L3-L4 is unremarkable.

L4-L5 demonstrates a 3 mm broad central disc protrusion. Facet DJD is mild on the right. No central canal stenosis or foraminal narrowing.

L5-S1 demonstrates a 2 mm broad disc bulge with unroofing inferiorly. No hypertrophic facet DJD. No central canal stenosis or foraminal narrowing.

The distal thoracic cord and cauda equina appear normal within the thecal sac. The exiting nerves appear normal in the lateral recesses and neural foramina diffusely. No mass. The paraspinous musculature is normal and symmetric without localized edema.
No focal bone marrow or ligamentous edema to suggest either bruise or sprain.


1. Retrolisthesis is 2 mm at L5-S1; disc degeneration is mild at L4-L5 and L5-S1.

2. No frank disc extrusion, central canal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, or direct nerve root impact throughout the study.

3. No bone marrow or ligamentous edema to suggest bruise or sprain.

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No one on the Spine-Health forums is medically qualified to give you any analysis of diagnostic testing. [u]Please READ the forum rules.
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Welcome to Spine-Health

It would be very helpful if you could provide us with more details. So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better the chance in finding out what is wrong,

Here are some questions that you should answer:

  • - When did this first start?
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    - What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)
    - What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?
    - What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)
    - What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)
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Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
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  • - Analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie MRI, CTscan, Xray, etc)
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What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s of that very condition.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are
I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways its like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then its up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 05/18/15 11:07est


  • Hi Stewart,

    As per the automatic message attached to your post, we can't and don't give assistance on the interpretation of diagnostic imaging.

    However, we are allowed to speak of our own experience....

    I suffered horrendous sciatic pain and had discectomy surgery at L4-5 on 22nd May 2014.

    Unfortunately the pain returned and I couldn't sit or stand for more than ten minutes before excruciating pain set in.

    On December 03rd 2014, I had a standard MRI scan in a lying down position. On December 04th 2014, an orthopaedic consultant told me that he could see no anatomical reason why I should be in so much pain.

    Because my pain was greatest when I was standing or sitting and lying down eased it, it was suggested to me by a chiropractor of all people that I pay for an upright MRI. It cost me £1100. The radiology report from the upright MRI scan confirmed that, the disc had reherniated and, in vertical load bearing positions, my L4-5 disc was bulging out and crushing my sciatic nerve roots and impinging on my spinal cord.

    One L4-5 fusion surgery later and I am pain free and can now walk up to 5 miles no problem.

    So there is hope.

    L5-S1 herniation. Both knee meniscus tear. L4-5 herniation - 2 x nerve block injections. L4-5 discectomy. L1-2 nerve block injection. L4-5 reherniation - TLIF fusion. 2016: L1-2 and L5-S1 retrolistheses and multiple facet joint degeneration.
  • please don't think i'm an idiot when I ask this but what brought you to your dr? what type of dr ? and whats your pain level? What causes you pain? triggers? Are you in the states? It reads a bit different from the 10 MRI's Ive had over 11 months...
    This can't be happening
  • I found my current primary physician after switching insurance carriers from Kaiser to UHC at the beginning of the year. He's associated with what is said to be one of the best medical groups around here and was highly recommended. At Kaiser, I went through about a year of trying to narrow down the cause for my back, nerve, and leg pain. They did an MRI at which time they only saw two herniations which they said were slight. They did three epidural steroid injections before deciding that they wouldn't try any more as I was not getting long term relief. They sent me to PT, acupuncture, and pain management. When I came to see my current doctor it was due to the same pain and wanting to get outside of the Kaiser experience to see if I could get another opinion or opinions. My pain had only gotten worst and the leg pain much worst. Since switching to my new primary in January I've seen an orthopedic surgeon who focused on my SI joint then gave up once he determined that wasn't it, got sent to PT which didn't help long term...Was put on pain meds and Lyrica which help but not enough, they just take a bit of the edge off. When I voiced to my primary I didn't like the orthopedic surgeon I had seen he referred me to a neurologist and to another spine specialist. I had a nerve conduction study and EMG today, apparently all normal. The MRI was requested by the spine specialist. He also wanted xrays and a copy of my old MRI from Kaiser before he would even see me. I see him next week. I've had a ton of lab work done which all showed normal as well. Hope this all makes sense and isn't a total rambled. I am in the US (California). I don't know what to expect. Everything keeps showing as normal but I hurt so bad.
  • stewartgemsstewartgem Posts: 7
    edited 05/20/2015 - 5:34 PM
    I didn't completely answer the questions. Unmedicated, my pain is an 8-10. With 10/325 norco and 300 mg lyroca a day it stays at about 6-8. Still uncomfortable, but I am more able to work most days with the slightly lessened pain level. My pain is worst after bending or sitting. Because of that I fond myself avoiding bending at the waist. It also is very painful after I try to lift or carry anything that has weight to it. Extensive walking also causes my Lowe back, leg, and hip to develop a burn that's pretty unbearable...only on my left side though. It's frustrating because I know things aren't right but nothing is pointing to what could possibly be causing all this pain.
  • Your symptoms are like mine were and caused in the same way.

    Ask about an UPRIGHT MRI in flex, neutral and extension. You may then see the cause of your pain.

    L5-S1 herniation. Both knee meniscus tear. L4-5 herniation - 2 x nerve block injections. L4-5 discectomy. L1-2 nerve block injection. L4-5 reherniation - TLIF fusion. 2016: L1-2 and L5-S1 retrolistheses and multiple facet joint degeneration.
  • I got most recent (laying) xrays results today as well. Just like in the MRi, it mentioned narrowing at L5-S1 and 2mm retrolisthesis. There's also the broad disc herniation of 2mm there. Above that a 3mm herniation and then a 1mm, if I remember the order right. Considering that whenever I tell a doctor where my pain originates they say it is extremely low, I am led to think that the L5-S1 area really is the trigger point. I think you're really onto something about the standing MRI. I left a message for my primary today and ran that by him along with my gut feeling it's that area causing the issues. I also will inquire with the spine surgeon I see next week. I was told by a surgeon at Kaiser he didn't see a reason for all the pain but would do a fusion if I wanted it. The way he offered it like no big deal is why I said no. If you aren't sure it will help me why offer it. I get the feeling if it is that L5-S1 then fusion is the primary surgical option to try and fix it. How was recovery from your fusion? I am most concerned about that because I work FT, don't have much sick or vacation time left, and start graduate school in late August. As you can see, I am not one for down time.
  • ..I had a micro in july 2014. Clear MRI showed the rare "extrusion" herniated disk for left sided leg pain, Never really had "back" pain. I opted for surgery over epidural knew too many people who these were "bandaids for" , and I needed to be back to work have a family to support...And the first few weeks I really started feeling better, then entered in PT and spiraled from there., and oddly enough it all hit the right side, had such pain sitting. But it was rare unlike sciatica, femoral disorder, then periformis, then SI joint, so then we just diagnosed me with pelvic pain. My profile pic shows how my back was swelled every day no answer why my pain was not typical sciatica, mine came around my hip along the crease of your hip when you sit and into the inner thigh, sometimes down to my foot numbness and tingling... I had blood tests,to rule out all systemic, I never wanted an epidural so I had surgery and then forced (not by dr) to have a spinal epidural, because I needed relief, toradol didn't work steroid packs didnt work, and sure enough I did it and for me that was a "wet tap" and bed ridden 5 days, then I continued to reach out to anyone and everyone in the medical field, I hit the computer hard like I was a med student and researched not only to try to find a diagnosis but to research and learn about what I could be living with. Prior to this surgery I was healthy 46 yr old physical adult 127 pd 5"4.

    11 months of pain , it felt like I had been sitting on a rock right in the center of my buttock and I could never get it to go away unless I laid down and did NOTHING!!!! and tests, drs scratching their heads, I saw a neuro surgeon who did not know I went into the city and saw a neuro who said maybe its nerve related but didn't want to take me as a patient, I saw a neurologist, had a nerve test came back negative, a rheumatologist , a gynocologist, I had 9 MRI's, showed some scar tissue but left sided remember I'm dealing with right sided pain now...a full body scan an anesthesiologist/PM dr, to make sure I wasn't just "drug seeking" that was humiliating, but I understand they kept doing tests and I kept getting worse..in and out of PT hydro and land....activity continued to make my pain worse, I had a good dr that stuck with me trusted I knew my body and it was never about the pain meds it was about whats wrong with my body since I had surgery... the 2 failed epidurals, ended up with another on the right side because my pain also didn't come back on the same side it came back all right sided..and along with all of this I lost my job of 10 years, so not only my life changed my whole families life changed. Something was seriously wrong and I wasn't giving up.

    I sit here now post op 2 weeks monday for a bone fusion on the same disk L4-L5. All my spiney friends WE ARE ALL HERE FOR DIFFERENT REASONS, I AM NO DR. THIS IS MY STORY wether it be a surgery you had a fall you had an epidural ..follow your gut know your body....I sat up one night at the end of my wits researched and found a test the dr had never mentioned....I dont know why and I don't care I found it read about it, the test freaked me a bit more then surgery but it gave me chances of a diagnosis and maybe less fusion then I would need. A discogram....I emailed the dr office and scheduled an appt to see if he'd be willing to do the test.
    We did the test, and sure enough, posterior annular tear, fluid leaking out onto the nerve causing pain and damage...which was not detected on a MRI, body scan with contrast, xrays ect....one week later surgery scheduled....

    Ask your dr for an MRI, discuss the discogram, its your body your pain you have to live with for your life time....be your own advocate kkuylen . I had post op pain and had an MRI right away I don't know your exact surgery but we are so prone to re injury and fusions not taking and re herniating...I'm not a dr just passing along what I've learned . Good luck . Call your Dr. :)
    I am hoping over time things will resolve themselves, I have to be very careful very limited I wear a shell I have a cane, I'm just walking minimal and the most I'm in the car is 10 mins. I still have leg pain, but Ive got a lot of swelling and you put it into perspective 11 months of pain thats 11 months to repair not to mention the 6 months of the original injury., and original surgery...( I fell shoveling snow in feb 2014) had surgery July 2014, and now my bone fusion may 11 2015.
    This can't be happening
  • edited 05/25/2015 - 7:01 PM
    im only on 10/325 myself which was what I was on before surgery and its not helping me recover at all...I can never get to at least a restful state. And at this point it should only be a temporary increase. I have to confer with dr. I just don't tolerate meds very well....my bp drops I get all nausea type symptoms....
    This can't be happening
  • I'm no dr but my neuro who is head of neuro in our hospital said he would gladly have me do an MRI standing or sitting but I also talked to the last tech who did mine he said they don't come thru very clear and that they have to lessen the amount of views just because it has to be an open MRI and those have less quality to begin with. Please speak to your dr about a discogram...after you read my lengthy story you now know why. I do have a small buldge at l5 s1 and I swore my pain was coming from my butt bone and if I did not have this test I could of had a 2 fusion instead of 1 because the discogram did not create pain in that region. Just my opinion in my case
    This can't be happening
  • The open / upright MRI that I used was the latest model and the quality of the images was HD!
    L5-S1 herniation. Both knee meniscus tear. L4-5 herniation - 2 x nerve block injections. L4-5 discectomy. L1-2 nerve block injection. L4-5 reherniation - TLIF fusion. 2016: L1-2 and L5-S1 retrolistheses and multiple facet joint degeneration.
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