A cervical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a noninvasive method to create detailed pictures of the part of the spine that runs through the neck area. This area is called the cervical spine. It consists of seven vertebrae and eight pairs of spinal nerves (called C1 to C8).
Unlike x-rays and computed tomographic (CT) scans, which use radiation, MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves. The MRI scanner contains the magnet. The magnetic field produced by an MRI is about 10 thousand times greater than the earth’s.
The magnetic field forces hydrogen atoms in the body to line up in a certain way (similar to how the needle on a compass moves when you hold it near a magnet). When radio waves are sent toward the lined-up hydrogen atoms, they bounce back, and a computer records the signal. Different types of tissues send back different signals.
Single MRI images are called slices. The images can be stored on a computer or printed on film. One exam produces dozens or sometimes hundreds of images.
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