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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Disc Herniations of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine) shown and explained with Color MRI Images

Lumbar (Low Back) Disc Herniations are a common ailment in the general population. Lumbar Disc Herniations account for only 5% of all low back problems, however they are the most common reason for Sciatica. They are also the most common reason for patient to have Spine Surgery.

The Color MRI Image below shows the basic Anatomy of the Lumbar Spine. A whole body Color MRI Image is shown on the left. It helps to orient you to the location of the Lumbar Spine within our body. The cut-out Image is a magnified Image of just the Lumbar Spine. The Spinal Discs shown in green are our natural "Cushion" or "Shock Absorber" between the Vertebrae.

Sagittal Lumbar MRI of the Spinal Anatomy
Color MRI of the whole body with Lumbar Spine cut-out.
This next Color MRI Image shows you what a Spinal Disc looks like in cross-section and its location in reference to the other parts of the Lumbar Spine. Notice the location of the Spinal Nerves (yellow), just behind the Spinal Disc. When a Disc herniates, the herniated material often pushes on the Spinal Nerves next to it. These Spinal Nerves eventually travel to our legs to give us strength and sensation. This is the reason why Sciatica (inflammation of the Spinal Nerve) causes leg pain. 

Color MRI showing axial Lumbar Spine Anatomy
Color MRI of the whole body showing a cross-sectional cut-out of the Lumbar Spine

The Color MRI Image below shows a Disc Herniation at the lowest Disc of the Low Back (L5/S1). The herniated Disc material is shown in red. The herniated material migrated from the center of the Disc through its outer protective ring.

Sagittal Color MRI of a Lumbar Disc Herniation
Color MRI of  the whole body showing a Lumbar Spine cut-out of a Disc Herniation
In this next Color MRI Image you can compare a Normal Disc to a Disc Herniation. The normal Disc is flat on its back, which represents an intact outer ring (annulus fibrosus), where all the Disc material (green) is safely located within the Disc itself. When a Disc Herniation occurs, the Disc's outer ring fails to contain all the material. Some material can migrate into or through the outer ring.

Sagittal Color MRI of a Lumbar Disc Herniation and Spinal Anatomy
Color MRI of a Disc Herniation in the Lumbar Spine
While Disc Herniations can cause severe back and leg pain, overall only 5% of patients undergo Surgery for this condition.

Color MRI Images like the ones featured in this Blog are available for Licensing at

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