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Who Really “Needs” an M.R.I. Scan? December 10, 2008

Filed under: Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 8:31 pm

The New York Times had a great article concerning M.R.I scans. If you’re dealing with knee or back pain, definitely take a look at the article. A few things to know about M.R.I.’s…

  • The more scans you have the more *problems* you will find.
  • Just because something isn’t “normal” does not mean it’s a problem. An M.R.I. is just an image- in many cases, it cannot confirm the cause of the pain.

“Every time we get a new technology that provides insights into structures we didn’t encounter before, we end up saying, ‘Oh, my God, look at all those abnormalities.’ They might be dangerous,” said Dr. David Felson, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University Medical School. “Some are, some aren’t, but it ends up leading to a lot of care that’s unnecessary.”

  • Some Doctors own scanners or have invested in clinics that they refer patients to. This is a huge conflict of interest. Basically, the doctor has a financial advantage to encourage more scanning. This leads to over-diagnosis and overtreatment (aka even more dollars in the pockets for our *fabulous* healthcare system). 



“Somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of people who climb into a scanner will have a herniated disk,” Dr. Modic said. As many as 60 percent of healthy adults with no back pain, he said, have degenerative changes in their spines.

Now, as more and more people have scans for everything from headaches to foot aches, more are left in a medical lurch, or with unnecessary or sometimes even harmful treatments, including surgery.

Unfortunately, the article did not discuss proactive treatments that individuals can engage in. “Conservative” treatment as Dr. Modic discusses shouldn’t just be about pain relievers and going about normal life. It’s important to reflect on “normal life” and see what could be contributing to the pain. Stress can come into play, posture, weak abdominal muscles… and the list continues. Consider your own personal situation and make changes that can restore balance to the body. Remember, your own body wisdom is far more precise than any machine.


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