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Thoracic Spine

Thoracic Spine

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Thoracic Spine MRI

The thoracic spine, located in the upper and mid-back, plays a crucial role in supporting the body and protecting vital organs. Comprising 12 vertebrae, it forms the central part of the spinal column and provides attachment points for the ribs. This section of the spine is less mobile than the cervical and lumbar regions, offering stability while allowing for essential movements like bending and twisting. Proper care and understanding of the thoracic spine are vital for overall spinal health, as issues in this area can affect posture, breathing, and daily activities. Stay tuned to learn more about maintaining a healthy thoracic spine and the use of MRI scans to aid in spinal health. 

Anatomy of the Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae labelled T1 to T12, each connected to a pair of ribs. These vertebrae are larger and stronger than those in the cervical spine but more rigid, offering protection and support. Key features include the vertebral body, which bears most of the load; the spinous processes, which are bony projections that provide attachment points for muscles and ligaments; and intervertebral discs, which cushion and separate each vertebra, absorbing shock and allowing slight movement. This structure helps protect the spinal cord while supporting the rib cage and upper body.

When to Get a Thoracic Spine MRI?

A thoracic spine MRI is typically ordered when symptoms persist or worsen, such as:

  • Persistent or worsening back pain
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Pain spreading to the legs, arms, or chest

Discussing your symptoms with your healthcare provider is essential. 

 Conditions Which May be Diagnosed

Here are some common thoracic spine MRI findings along with their brief definitions:

  • Disc Herniation:some text
    • Definition: Protrusion or extrusion of the intervertebral disc material beyond its normal confines, potentially compressing spinal nerves or the spinal cord.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD):some text
    • Definition: Age-related changes in the intervertebral discs, including dehydration, disc space narrowing, and loss of disc height.
  • Spondylosis:some text
    • Definition: Degeneration of the spine's intervertebral discs and vertebrae, often leading to osteophyte (bone spur) formation.
  • Compression Fracture:some text
    • Definition: Collapse of a vertebral body, often due to trauma or osteoporosis.
  • Spinal Stenosis:some text
    • Definition: Narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Facet Joint Arthropathy:some text
    • Definition: Degenerative changes in the facet joints, which are small stabilising joints located at the back of the spine.
  • Spinal Cord Lesions:some text
    • Definition: Abnormal areas within the spinal cord, which could be due to multiple causes, such as tumours or demyelination (e.g., multiple sclerosis).
  • Myelopathy:some text
    • Definition: Functional disturbance or pathological change in the spinal cord, often due to compression.
  • Synovial Cysts:some text
    • Definition: Fluid-filled sacs arising from the synovial membrane of facet joints.

Understanding these common findings helps in diagnosing and managing various thoracic spine conditions.

What Does a Back MRI Scan Show?

Spinal Abnormalities
  • Vertebral fractures or injuries to the bony vertebrae
  • Disc herniations, bulges, or other disc-related issues
  • Spinal cord compression or damage
  • Abnormal curvatures like scoliosis or kyphosis
Soft Tissue Injuries
  • Sprains or tears of ligaments and tendons around the spine
  • Muscle strains or other soft tissue damage
  • Discitis (disc infection)
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Spinal cord or meningeal infections
  • Tumours or masses within the spinal canal, vertebrae, or surrounding tissues
Vascular Conditions
  • Aneurysms or other vascular abnormalities

The thoracic MRI allows radiologists to examine the vertebrae, discs, spinal cord, nerves, and surrounding soft tissues in high detail across multiple imaging planes. This helps identify the underlying cause of thoracic spine pain, numbness, weakness or other symptoms.

How Long Does the MRI of Thoracic Spine Take?

The duration of a thoracic spine MRI typically ranges from 20 to 45 minutes. However, this can vary depending on factors such as the specific protocols used by the imaging facility and the complexity of the case.

How Long Does a Full Spine MRI Take? Generally, a full spine MRI scan can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour to complete.

Preparing for a Thoracic Spine MRI

Preparing for a thoracic spine MRI involves several steps to ensure the best possible imaging results and your comfort during the procedure. Here's what you should do before your scan:

  1. Dress Comfortably: Wear loose, comfortable clothing without any metal zippers, buttons, or snaps. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown, so it's helpful to wear clothing that is easy to remove.
  2. Remove Metal Objects: Before the scan, remove any metal objects or accessories, such as jewellery, watches, eyeglasses, hairpins, or hearing aids. These items can interfere with the MRI machine and affect image quality.
  3. Discuss Claustrophobia: If you have claustrophobia or anxiety about enclosed spaces, inform the imaging facility in advance. They may offer strategies or accommodations to help you feel more comfortable during the scan. 
  4. Arrive on Time: Plan to arrive at the imaging facility on time for your appointment. This allows for necessary paperwork and preparation before the scan.

By following these guidelines and preparing accordingly, you can help ensure a smooth and successful thoracic spine MRI experience.

Schedule your scan

Thoracic spine MRI scans are a potentially valuable diagnostic tool for evaluating conditions affecting the thoracic region. By understanding the anatomy of the thoracic spine, common conditions diagnosed by thoracic MRI, individuals can better navigate the process of identifying and addressing underlying issues.

Avoid NHS wait times and discover the cause of your thoracic pain with GetScanned.Contact us today to book your MRI and take the first step towards better health!

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

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