Does a disc tear always show up on MRI?

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Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
Title: Member
Joined: 05/16/2011 - 7:38pm
Does a disc tear always show up on MRI?

Here I go again, I got the results to my second MRI. First MRI said bulging disc L4-L5 and moderate ostearthritis in facet joints. Second & most recent said no herniations MRI negative (he only wrote the order to rule out herniations for this one). My doc and I both believe I have a tear. He did tell me before the second MRI that it doesn't always show everything. So I am hanging once again waiting on my follow up for the next step (discogram). I did have a nerve test last week but I don't know the results yet. My question is: did anyone else's MRI show their disc tear? Or did it show for the discogram?
Sorry about being abrupt but I just want out of pain or at least less pain. I would really like to talk to someone with the same symptoms as me. I seem to get more anxious whenever I've had a night like last night (no sleep, all pain). What's really bad is my leg pain is getting worse and worse everyday. Anyone?

Aviatrix36440's picture
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Title: Member
Joined: 09/29/2009 - 10:35pm
Tears etc.

Sometimes depending on your position on the table, the thickness of the slices they take in the MRI etc. When my C6/7 went the MRI didn't show it! I then went to a "positional MRI" facility and got a new MRI in a sitting position - and there it was bigger than stink!

If your insurance allows it, and a facility is in reasonable range, you might want to consider getting a positional (stand up) MRI. Another good thing about a positional, is you are loading your spine, and the images (to me) are more realistic as for my back at least, laying down, I don't have a lot of pain. Standing, walking sitting - ouch! Just something to think about. Please let us know how it goes.


PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

dilauro's picture
Last seen: 4 hours 52 min ago
Title: Moderator
Joined: 06/16/2008 - 9:41pm
Brenda is correct

there are a lot of variables when it comes to MRI's and their results.

Also, there are some variations, but not as many in terms of reading MRI images. That is taking nothing away from any medical profession who is doing the reading. But somethings, there is a level of subjectivity here.

Recently, I had a lower lumbar MRI done (5/11) to compare any changes since my last one (07/07). One doctor saw little changes, but small bulge putting some pressure on a nerve root, but admitting it was minimal since 4 years ago. Today, another doctor looked at the same set of MRI's. His analysis indicated that the paracentral tear had increased a good amount. Plus a newer bulge coming from L5/S1 could be the reason for newer problems.

Both of them professionals, both of them I trust. Both MRI's done by the same machine....

But any doctor will tell you MRI's are not the end all in spinal problem diagnostics. Sure, they pick up the larger percentage and more obvious ones, but there are times for other tests.

Most of the time, I've discussed this with doctors, they opt for another set of MRI's just to compare. It seems easier to justify another MRI via the Insurance company then going for a new diagnostic test.

Sorry, your problem has not been fully identified. Sometimes, this all gets so frustrating

Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Moderator
I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences.

Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Title: Member
Joined: 12/14/2008 - 11:36pm

My mri never for years ever show the tear, once i had discogram them puting pressure on it it showed it leaking. So mri for sure dont show everything or it shows sometimes things that might not even be the main cause of the pain. I read a lot about the mri how it can be very missleading to dr,s and often do surgery and its not the direct cause of a patiets pain. Thats the cause of most failed surgery for spine,

Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
2012 scs implant ,