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    What does an MRI of the thoracic (mid-back) spine show?

    Posted by Ravi Sohal on Tue, Aug 18, 2009

    mri thoracic spineMRI scans are frequently used to evaluate the structures of the thoracic spine, also known as the mid-back. A variety of trends have increased the use of MRI in evaluating the spine - more sports activity, computer use, and we've remained much more active into our later years than previous generations.

    If you've injured your back or have chronic back pain, your doctor will probably first order an x-ray. After an x-ray, an MRI may be needed to evaluate the internal structures of the thoracic spine. On your doctor's order for the MRI you might see:

    "r/o disc disease" -  this refers to the discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebral bodies of the spine. They can be injured or "flatten" over time and bulge and press on nerve roots. These are the flat structures between the tall, somewhat square gray bones (the vertebral bodies) in the picture to the right.

    "r/o herniation"- this refers to a disc herniation. If the outer part of the disc tears, a jelly like substance can escape out (aka herniate) and cause radiating pain or weakness in the neck, back shoulder, arm or hand.

    "r/o stenosis" - this refers to narrowing of the spinal canal and openings for the nerve roots. Bulging discs and other degenerative changes of the spine can narrow the spinal canal, causing pain or weakness. In the picture you can see the spinal cord as the long light grey structure, just behind the vertebral bodies, surrounded by white fluid.

    (FYI - "r/o" is short for "rule out")

    An MRI of the thoracic spine will evaluate:


    A thoracic spine MRI will include the thoracic vertebral bodies, lamina, facets, spinous process and parts of the upper lumbar spine and lower cervical spine. The thoracic spine MRI can detect bone fractures, tumors, infection and evaluate post-surgical changes. An MRI can also determine the extent of degenerative changes (arthritis) and be used for pre-operative planning for spinal fusion.


    Thoracic spine MRIs are very good at looking at the discs between your vertebral bodies. A thoracic spine MRI can detect disc flattening, bulges, herniations, and infection (aka discitis).

    Spinal Canal and Neural Foramina

    Spinal nerves arise from spinal cord and leave the spinal canal through holes called the neural foramina. The canal and these exit points can be blocked and cause back, chest, shoulder, hand pain or weakness.

    Soft Tissues

    This refers to the muscles and tissues around your thoracic spine. The thoracic spine MRI can detect infections, fluid collections and tumors of these structures. It also includes some parts of the lungs and heart.

    Your Thoracic Spine MRI Scan

    A thoracic spine MRI generally takes about 20-30 minutes or so to complete. If you are going for one, wear loose comfortable clothing and remember to remove all metal (jewelry, phones, rings, etc) before going into the MRI scan room. If you've had surgery or have a history of cancer, you'll probably have the test done with MRI contrast.

    If you're insured, you may need to have your test authorized (approved) by your insurance company first. If you're uninsured  use our website to look up MRI of the thoracic spine scan costs, find a certified imaging center and buy your test with a credit card.

    Have you had a Thoracic Spine MRI scan? What was it like? Please leave your comments below.


    I have been in constant lower back pain since an accident in 1990, after 3 MRI's I have been told I will need surgery. I never told any of my Dr.'s about loosing my legs. This has happened 3x since 1996, I finally told my neurosurgeon. I was ashamed because 2x it happened after I had a few drinks.  
    I am a person in recovery, I do not care for the big (A) word as people Dr.'s ect, all judge us as low life, losers, I was a social drinker so I thought.  
    I got a late start in my mid. 30's and my Boss drank 4x a day next door from where I lived.  
    I never missed work, etc. a functional person, I stopped in 1995 as I was about to be a Grandmother. I now have an order for a Thoracic MRI. I want to get better and not living on pills as they scare me. I was diagnosed w/7 deteriorated dicks, a compound fracture, a single fracture.The fractures were a result by falling on icy wet stairs. Now here I am telling a surgeon about loosing my legs from the waist down. The person I was involved with did not believe me, I walked like Groucho Marks for days after, he blamed the Miller-lite. I told only one friend what happened. I did not know, he told me I may have had a slight stroke. I wasn't a big drinker, and also quit for 9 yrs. now I have an order for this type of MRI #4 since 2003, I have had brain tests that according to my M.D. came out fine no signs of Dementia,etc. I am 54 yrs. old and want to live a clean life. I only take meds from my Dr. As stated earlier I am in pain 24/7. I do not abuse pills as they scare me, I take as needed. I'm writing this because I finally told someone, due to the fact I was laid off due to new mgmt. and my Brother advised me to apply for disability. I would like to know what is differant if so, I had 2 without contrast and the third with. That was the one that showed my spine in detail, I also had a EMG- a test w/needles that fried my veins, and my orthopedic told me I was fine. I was told in jest by my Daughter (Mom after all these tests you'l be glowing in the dark') Had to get this off my mind, as I don't have anyone else. Sincerely, MM

    posted @ Saturday, October 10, 2009 10:25 PM by Marie Mackey


    posted @ Thursday, August 19, 2010 8:02 PM by ANNASA GUY

    Anyone out there have Fibrolypimus Hamartoma of the Median Nerve (sp?)? I do, and it seems to be VERY RARE. Trying to locate others who may have this. Thanks!

    posted @ Saturday, August 28, 2010 1:13 PM by Teresa

    I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A SMALL HERNATED DIS ATL-3-L4 BULGING DISC AT L5 S1 AND SINGNIFICATE SIZED LEFTWARD DISC EXTRUSION AT t8-t9 does touch the exiting left nerve root i have been in sever pain for 11 months lost my job and unable to do anything for a very short period of time then im laid up for days i have fallin 3 times and im 35 any sugetions i have had therpy,injections meds and im sick of all this pain what should i do?

    posted @ Tuesday, September 07, 2010 7:49 PM by luanne

    I have a rhomboid strain and right thoracic pain. The MRI did not show anything. Does anyone know if there is anything that an MRI would not detect? I need to know because I am still in a lot of pain.

    posted @ Monday, September 27, 2010 7:52 PM by Lorie

    I have unsteady gait,weakness in legs,heaviness of legs, some dragging of both feet.I've had test for circ. to neck and brain..normal.MRIof brain and all parts of spine..normal.what.s wrong

    posted @ Wednesday, October 27, 2010 3:43 PM by Pauline Adams

    can anyone tell me what this MRI report means. 10 MM rounded area of very low signal in the right posterior T9 verebral can be seen and is consistent with a aea of sclerosis. Similar appearing but only 3MM area within the right aspect of the T12 verebral body. Remainder of the vetebrae have normal pattern and contour. likley bone island. any help with this would be great My husbands pain started in 2005.

    posted @ Tuesday, September 27, 2011 7:50 PM by Kristine

    Had a MRI , called to get the results after waiting a month. MRI was OCT 20 th and I was told it was filed away, I went and had a copy made.----------------------1.4 cm focus of T2/flair hyperintensity.within the right middle cerebellar peduncle in addition a subcentimeterfocus of increasedT2 signal is identified in th left side of the pons. demyelinating process

    posted @ Saturday, November 19, 2011 9:28 AM by Tara

    I started feeling a slight pain in my thorax in the year 2004, i thought it was due to sitting for long,when i got my 1st born, the pain incresed and radiated within the thorax and the spine, i got my second born in 2010 and it worsened. The affeceted area usually makes cracking sounds when stretched. Av gone for MRI twice and several X-rays but the Doctors dont seem to be getting right of what is ailing me. The pain increses whenever i lift anything that has weight. can anybody tell me what could be ailing me. am ever in pain.

    posted @ Friday, February 24, 2012 8:21 AM by josephine

    Years back had mri of cervical spine was under care of neurologist. Showed multilevel disc disease. stenois and osptyphytes and etc. Since it was neck pain she tried different muscle relaxers refused after too tired and no help. I continued to work, very tough job.but neuroligist of 2004 told job no lifting clients anymore. My job was so great and accepted this worked at a place with disabilities. continued with her for migraines neck back then other issues happened and ankle swelling to point of leaking fulid my primary took over antibotics but other signs trouble walking, tire out easy, numbness but most of all pain in feet and arms neck or back. Was sent to podrist gave injections after xrays found acute arthritis and synovitis. My work place put me to per diem no health insurance no benefits. My docs are years refused to take me accept one great doc I had she helped and got another primary doc thru a health clinic, but things were getting worse. They found a clinic poditary. He noticed gait off, long evaluation. He had me go back remind you no charge, he explained to me and my family this was all coming from neck and spine and when he ever read the report of years ago he asked why it was never redone. Said she said it did not need to be. They all helped and got me care at one of the very best hospitals with free care. I lost my job. Instead of saying firing wrote me a letter I could reapply if I could do full duty. After 25 years slapped right across the face. But I knew I was struggling and knew it was worsening whatever it was. Docs and attorneys found out my workplace had long term disability insurance and thank god they were right there for my financial needs. Could not believe what was done to me. But now working with all to help me in my health. I thank god there are still great people out there and the days I had to take off could not be helped and always had doctor documentation. I have been diagnosed with Fibroglymaia and treatment has been started. The anxiety and depression I went thru all this unbelivable and my great doctor helped with all this, still will be that battle so all out there no with so much pain fatigue make sure you find medical care its out there have to look. If your overwhelmed get a great phychrist i always siad no she has been my savior. someone you can connect with. If not find someone else. She is more than a doctor she was such an advocate with my new primary doc and the ones from the hospital. Now they have done a lunbar mri, showings acute node degeneative, arthritis, they have redone cervical spine of tuesday nite, my doc is not in rest of week, but hospital called today and now have to do a t spine mri of this weekend. I want you all to know yes these conditions people might think complainers, get going, which i always did with the pain, clean house work kids all. Now that they are all grown so happy they are not here to see the hell I am going thru. Finally great docs that listen and say how did this happen. I am at the point now feet go into such spasms or so much pain, shins neck back arms plus have a torn rotar cuff an carpel tunnel and I do not believe in pain pills at all. Doctors found a pain patch not morphine either. I even had falls reported it to my old docs brushed off. Not with my new doctors one fall was so bad my mouth all cut up face and leg hip hurt and there attitude was you got it good. My new docs wanted to know why this was happening and found out. I did have a fall in bathtub this week but only cut finger and landed on knee. Big difference of concern. So remember from someone like me do not let any doctor or family or friend just make it sound like nothing get the right care right docs and help for the emotional. This is something strong I am going to say for the ones that do this to get some kind of benefits and nothing is wrong please stop doing this for medical costs, others that really need benefits are denied becuase they think all are frauding, the people that struggle with this is a task just to dress get out of the bed but have the spirit to want to go to work, i pray every day some miracle will come so maybe I can do a little something extra. I know I can not commit to something becuz I do not know which each day brings to me. I am only 54. Its heartbreaking to see all going to work but god closes one door and opens another for all I believe. Any one that feels real down please even no money chat on one of these chats let it out until you find someone there are kind hearts will take you for nothing. Check your town hall and ask for clinics. okay. hope all well or the best find a hobby keep the mind going something. butterfly

    posted @ Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:23 PM by butterfly

    ive spoken to my consultants secretary who says my mri results show i have a tiny amount of high signal which is apparently very rare because it is in my lower back ?? but i still have to wait untill they have a meeting to decide what treatment to give me. any ideas what there on about ?????????

    posted @ Saturday, April 14, 2012 3:34 PM by jo beer

    Recently diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Currently experienceing extreme muscle stiffness and pain from the jaw down the next and into the back all the way down to my buttocks. There is also contraction in the right calf, making walking a little uncomfortable. Tearing pain radiates through the shoulders and across the chest and collarbone and sternum area, the front of the throat, and has spread in the past 4 days down both arms (stiffness) and tingling in both hands. I had carpell tunnel release on both hands, so I know it is not that. I believe the arm sensations are coming from the stiffness in the neck. I started Physcial Therapy (4 sessions per week and the PT said she was concerned because she has never had a patient with such muscle spasms so widespread. I am walking with a lean to the right side, and I am hunched up and forward because of the contractions. She said she wanted my PCP to order a C Spine MRI as she is suspicous something else is going on (he did, just waiting for a date). However, I have such a severe pain in my mid back as well, immediate left of the spine, and excruciating pain when taking a deep breath, sucking in the stomack muscles or lying down. PT said it will take a while to loosen me up. She said we have to do it in segments because my entire body is contracted. Can this be caused by Fibromyalgia? Should I be concerned about the mid back pain that I can pretty much pinpoint to a specific spot and then feel it pull to the entire back when leaning forward and breathing? It has been almost 4 weeks, and it just seems to be getting worse. The Rheumatologist put me on Robaxin and my PCP has decided while it is so acute to cautiously use Percocet for breakthrough pain. Any thoughts?

    posted @ Sunday, July 15, 2012 12:40 AM by Sheree

    I have had spinal problems for years but a few weeks ago whilst sitting down i went to get up from chair and felt a click in my middle spine and my arm went numb almost immediatly withing a few mins my legs went numb when trying to walk i was dragging one of my legs behind me as if i had a stroke i was taken to hospital for a suspected tia after 6 hrs i was still not seen but was given an 300mg asprin and sent home i have yet to determine what is going on in my back my legs goes numb at least 5 times a week which is off and on at intervals especially when i bend down to pick something up.

    posted @ Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:47 AM by Derek Gough

    I have 6 herniated discs, and am staring down the barrel of spinal fusion....I was a skydiver, skateboarder, wakeboarder, snow boarded upon occasion and am miserable. The pain is overwhelming, so I double up on my meds, and drink a ton of whiskey= a good buzz.  
    Screw all this recovery talk- I can't do any of the things I enjoyed doing, so I eat, snort, and have even shot up my meds... Life sucks and if God wants me to live in this much pain, then he'll be seeing me sooner rather than later.  
    The only joy I get is when it's med time- I get higher than possible and nod off- pain free. I ice my back down, wrapped with a bag of ice and an ace bandage and take 2-3 times my dosage... Then chase with a half bottle of whiskey or bourbon.  
    Hope y'all find some relief- differently than I do. Doc said I a 50/50 shot at being a para in a long as my arms work, that will NOT be the case.....for long.  
    God Bless y'all and anyone out there who is too "high and might to succumb to their pain meds- just let me know. I will take 'em.

    posted @ Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:18 AM by Barton VanduCamp

    Hi, I'm a young 60 year old male, I had anterior cervical discectomy with fusion 3 years ago, to take away extreme pain in my right arm and severe tingling in my right hand, this worked as far as the pain is concerned but still have the tingling, 2 months ago I started with the same symptoms in my left arm, but much worse, I know that anybody who has these symptoms gets really down and depressed, so I went to my doc she immediately arranged an MRI scan, for which I've just had the appointment come through for the 12/3/13, in the meantime she prescribed pregabalin and cocodamol, INSTANT relief !! I take the tablets every 6 hours as the pain comes back if I don't, my mood has lifted, and I would recommend these tablets to anyone who is in pain and depressed, well that's my tale will keep you posted what happens next, take care. 

    posted @ Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:42 PM by David

    I am scheduled for a Thoracic MRI today (tue) and a brain MRI on Thur. Is that too much radiation? It is just for evaluation on the progress of MS.

    posted @ Tuesday, December 10, 2013 6:45 AM by Denise

    wondering if pauline adams from oct 27, 2010 got any answers. similar symptoms for 2 years. gait, leg stiffness,weakness and immobility. also limited trunk movement. various doctors, mri's, emg and blood tests. ???????????

    posted @ Thursday, March 06, 2014 4:43 AM by william

    I had surgery 26 years ago to remove a tumor from my spinal cord from T-2 to T-6. Donor tissue was applied around T-3/T-4 to the meningeal layer that had to be cut out. Since then, I've developed a syrinx there, and despite having an MRI done every 2 years since the surgery, they still aren't sure what it is. I am hoping technology will come along, where they can get a closer look (i.e., nano-MRI). CNS fluid is still able to get around it, but if that stops, I will become paralyzed. The cord, where they had to cut the tumor out, is very damaged, frail, and wiggly, like a strand of spaghetti. This is scary. My neurosurgeon retired, and he referred my case to another one, and I'm having hell getting him to accept a doggone referral over there. It was sent, but they say they didn't get it. Besides all that, I have degenerative disk disease, 10 herniated disks in all, at different stages, and spondylolisthesis at L-5/S-1. The cervical alone has 4 herniated disks, with stenosis, and causes constant pain, as does the lower back. My legs are getting weaker, and I have some balance issues. I also have ulnar palsy affecting my hands, which I assume comes from the cervical area. The thoracic affects the legs. I would like to know if technology has advanced to the point where they can get a "closer look" at the syrinx to make a better determination. However, I have been warned that further surgery to the area would surely cause paralysis to an already damaged cord (via the necessary surgery, and resultant scar tissue, etc.) Is there any hope for me? Does a doctor see these comments?

    posted @ Thursday, July 17, 2014 4:59 PM by Melanie

    monday 23rd of march I had a mri test done. go to doctor friday 4 results. y did they put me n there with my 2 rings on??? they asked about any body piercings or implants had me walk infront of metal detecter. i guess i will ask my doctor friday.

    posted @ Tuesday, March 24, 2015 6:40 PM by sheila

    Sheila - As far as having the rings on, obviously, they weren't magnetic. Some metals are actually safe, like coins. If you went through a metal detector, you were certified safe. However, I personally remove all metal for an MRI, just to be on the safe side, and you should too. Apparently, the posting here does not provide any answers for help.

    posted @ Wednesday, March 25, 2015 2:12 PM by Melanie

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