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Sunday, May 11, 2014

What is Spinal Stenosis? Shown and explained with Color MRI Images

Spinal Stenosis of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine) is a common condition, typically associated with degeneration of the Discs and Joints of the Low Back. As these structures in our Spine degenerate, they begin to form bone spurs which eventually grow into the Spinal Canal (large Nerve Channel) and place pressure on our Spinal Nerves.

Lets first take a look at a Normal Low Back (Lumbar Spine). The Color MRI Image below shows a blow-up of our Lumbar Spine. The Image on the left is a whole body Color MRI which helps you get oriented. The cut-out shows the Low Back. Notice the Spinal Discs shown in green which separate our Vertebrae. The Spinal Cord ends in the upper part of our Low Back. After that, it sends a large bundle of Spinal Nerves (yellow) further down the large Nerve Channel (Spinal Canal). The Spinal Fluid (blue) bathes the Spinal Cord and Spinal Nerves. Notice how much room exists around the Spinal Nerves. There is no compression of the Spinal Nerves anywhere in the Low Back. This Image is Interactive. Just move your Mouse Cursor over the Image and see the Image Tags come alive. Each tag displays text to explain a specific structure.

Sagittal Lumbar MRI of the Spinal Anatomy
Interactive Color MRI of the Anatomy of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine)

The next Image shows us what Spinal Stenosis looks like. Notice the Bone Spurs shown in red which have formed. In front of the Spinal Nerves (yellow), a Spinal Disc has degenerated. It has become smaller and harder which has caused Bone Spurs to form around it. The Bone Spurs on the back of the Disc have grown towards the Spinal Nerves (yellow). On the back of the Spine, Spinal (Facet) Joints have also degenerated. They have also formed Bone Spurs which have grown towards the Spinal Nerves. The Bone Spurs from the front and the back of the Spine are "pinching" the Spinal Nerves. This is called "Spinal Stenosis". This Image is also Interactive.

Interactive Color MRI of Spinal Stenosis of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine)

The next Image shows us the same information as a Slice taken across the Low Back. First lets look at the Normal Spine again. The whole body Color MRI on the left shows where the slice is taken from. It is a slice (cross-section) across the lower part of the Low Back. The slice shown in the main Image shows us the relationship of the Spinal Disc (green) to the Spinal Nerves (yellow). While two Spinal Nerves can be seen traveling just behind the Disc, the main bundle of Spinal Nerves travels in the large triangle opposite the Disc. This triangle is called the Spinal Canal (green dashed line).

Color Axial Lumbar Spine MRI showing normal Spine Anatomy
Color MRI of the Low Back showing a Slice (cross-section) of the Low Back

The last Image below are two slices like the one shown in the above Image. The top slice shows a Normal Spinal Canal (dashed green lines), while the bottom Image shows a narrowed Spinal Canal (Spinal Stenosis) by the red dashed lines. Notice the size difference between the Normal Canal and that which occurs in Spinal Stenosis. The bundle of Spinal Nerves (yellow) can be seen crowded together in the Spinal Stenosis slice. This compression of the Spinal Nerves can lead to pain and weakness in the legs which are very common in severe cases of Spinal Stenosis. This Image is also Interactive.

Axial Color MRI Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Before/After
Interactive Color MRI showing Normal Low Back and Spinal Stenosis

The treatments for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis range from medications (NSAIDS, steroids, muscle relaxants, pain killers) to Spine Injections (epidural injections) and Spine Surgery (lumbar decompression, lumbar fusion, interspinous process spacers).

If you enjoyed this Blog, here are some related Blog topics:

What is an Epidural Injection? Shown and explained with Color MRI Images
Patient Information: What is Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction? Shown and Explained with Color Radiology Images!
What is a Spinal Fusion Surgery of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine)? Shown and explained with Color X-Ray Images
Disc Herniations of the Low Back (Lumbar Spine) shown and explained with Color MRI Images

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