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Spine and Back Health

MRI Impression

05/05/2008

Question:

I had a MRI for lower back pain and the impression stated," decreased T1 marrow signal. May be due to red marrow. Differential diagnosis would also include other infiltrative disease. Clinical correlation for history of smoking is advised."

In layman terms, what the heck does that mean??

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Radiologists are obligated to comment on everything they see on an MRI that isn’t “normal”, even if the “abnormal” thing is very common and usually not clinically relevant. Many patients have a “funny look” to the bone marrow (which is the part in the center of the bone where all the blood and cells live). This has to do with some complicated physics behind how MRIs detect differences in tissues in our bodies. Many chronic diseases, as well as smoking, can cause the bone marrow to look funny on MRI. Of course, in very very rare cases certain kinds of tumors can cause the bone marrow to look funny also, but this is highly unlikely without some other sign of a problem. Bottom line is, it probably means nothing important. I hope this helps.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University