What is MRI of the cervical vertebrae of the spine?

Magnetic resonance imaging is a diagnostic technique based on the application of a magnetic field of high intensity and radiofrequency waves (similar to radio waves) to the body area to be examined. Compared to other radiologic methods of display, such as the CT scan, it has the advantage of non-invasiveness and the use of non-ionizing radiation and it allows the obtaining of images in three dimensions.

In some cases, a contrast agent is injected intravenously before the MRI test. The contrast material provides a better visual of the details of blood vessels and tumours. An MRI with contrast material is referred to as a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA).

Magnetic resonance imaging of the cervical vertebrae of the spine can be a useful test for studying the discs, bone and the vertebrae of the cervical spine.

An MRI of the cervical spine scans the soft tissues of the neck and cervical spine. The cervical spine is the portion of the spin the goes through the neck.

The cervical spine MRI is typically used to diagnose and determine the cause of neck pain or neck pain that is accompanied by weakness and numbness. Moreover, a cervical spine MRI can be performed to diagnose the following disorders:

  • Tumours or cancer of the spine
  • Scoliosis (curvature) of the spine
  • Aneurysms
  • Injury or trauma to the spine
  • Spinal deformities or birth defects
  • Herniated discs
  • Infection in or near the spine
  • Some soft tissue disorders



In preparation for the exam, the patient is required to:


  • Avoid the consumption of food and drinks 4-6 hours prior to the examination
  • Inform the medical staff of a confirmed or potential pregnancy because MRI scans are not recommended during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Inform the medical staff of any metal implants in the body.
  • Bring any relevant prior medical information such as computed tomography (CT) scans, previous MRI scans and X-rays.
  • Inform the medical staff if suffering from diabetes or kidney problems in cases in which the MRI scan is performed with a contrast agent. Patients with kidney problems may require a kidney function test prior to the MRI scan to ensure that the kidneys can process the contrast material safely after the examination.
  • Inform the medical staff if suffering from claustrophobia. In this case, the medical staff may prescribe an antianxiety medication or in severe cases, the patient may be given anesthesia to sleep for the entire duration of the test.


Moreover, it is important to remove all jewelry and clothing that contains metal before undergoing an MRI scan due to safety issues.


The MRI contains no radiation. Therefore, it is a non-invasive procedure that causes no pain. The main requirement for a successful MRI scan is that the patient lies perfectly still for the entire duration of the procedure because too much movement may alter or blur the images.


Risks associated with MRI scanning are rare; however, it is possible for an allergic reaction to occur to the contrast material used in MRA. The contrast material also carries the risk of causing further damage to people suffering from kidney problems.