Can I have an MRI after spinal fusion surgery?

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.

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