Can I have an MRI after spinal fusion surgery?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
This is a great question!

Most people who have metal rods and screws inserted during spinal surgery can have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

MRI scanners use a large magnet. If there is loose metal in the body, it can move during the scan. And that can cause damage to the body's tissue.

For example, an eye injury from a metal object could result in a small piece that stays lodged in the eye. To be certain, a simple x-ray could be performed to detect any metal.

It is possible that metal implanted during surgery could move if the surgery was just completed. It may be best to wait at least a few days after surgery before having an MRI scan.

But if the surgery was a while ago, metal that is set in place is unlikely to move or cause trouble during an MRI.

The bigger problem with metal in the body during an MRI is something we call "metal artifact." This means the metal can disrupt the images, making them blurry or hard to read.

If there is any uncertainty about the safety of using an MRI scan, another option, such as CT scanning, can often be used.

Harvard Medical School Low Back Pain: Healing your aching back

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Low Back Pain: Healing your aching back

Back pain is one of the most common, non-life-threatening, painful conditions, affecting four in five Americans at some point in their lives. And many have to be wary of return bouts. But low back...

Continue Learning about Spinal Fusion

How can I improve my recovery after lumbar fusion surgery?
Your physician will encourage you to walk as much as possible. Learn more from our experts about lum...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.