Can you Trust on MRI for Back Surgery?

By Luqman Shaikh – Sports Scientist – Founder Prehab 121

When my clients come to me with their MRI & CT scan I do not see them first. After a thorough assessment only I will co relate my findings with the findings of the MRI and CT. There are hard facts based on hundreds of studies done all over the world, by many researchers and cross tested/pooled in many populations.



The problem with MRIs and all other scans is the high variability in the interpretation of what is seen on them. A study highlighted a patient having stable but chronic low back pain had 10 different scans at 10 different centers within 3 weeks. The results showed 10 scans highlighting 49 different problems, yet not one of these findings was reported on all 10 scans.


A study by W. Brinjikji et al. (2014) revealed that spinal degeneration changes and abnormalities are common in healthy individual who are not experiencing any pain or discomfort (Asymptomatic) who have taken (CT Scan or MRI). Their results showed: Thirty-three articles reporting imaging findings for 3110 asymptomatic individuals. The study concluded, imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals ,increasing with age. Many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging and unassociated with pain and do not certainly require surgery.


This recent study by Lemmer et al review has shown that unnecessary imaging for low back pain increases the use of non-essential, costly, and risky treatments such as injections and even surgery. They can also delay recovery and return to work and other activities.


A better way forward is getting yourself assessed by our physiotherapists with the help of body scan assessment and follow an effective rehab plan for at least 6 weeks before commencing for surgery.


At Prehab 121 Physiotherapy our focus is always towards helping our clients get the preventive care approach before thinking of surgery as an option.

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