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Side Effects & Complications of a Lumbar MRI

By Helen Nnama ; Updated August 14, 2017

As defined by The University of Maryland Medical Center, lumbar magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a noninvasive diagnostic technique that utilizes radio waves and a magnetic field for creating 3-D images of the lumbar spine. Lumbar MRI is largely performed for the diagnosis of birth defects, infections and trauma of the lower spine. Lumbar MRI is quite safe for the patient, but some side effects and complications may occur.

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

Lumbar MRI may be associated with nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, states MayoClinic.com. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is a serious medical disorder characterized by formation of excessive connective tissues in the skin, eyes, joints and internal organs. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is mainly a result of gadolinium exposure. Gadolinium is a heavy metal which is present in the contrast medium for performing an MRI. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is one of the serious side effects that are more likely to occur in persons suffering from kidney problems. MayoClinic.com states that there is no effective cure for NSF.

Breathing Problems

According to KidsHealth, a patient may experience breathing problems after undergoing a lumbar MRI. The breathing problems can be a result of the introduction of certain medications like sedatives or due to the injection of contrast medium into the veins. This is a serious situation that indicates the body’s intolerance for contrast medium as well as sedatives and thus needs medical attention.

Malfunctioning of Metallic Implants

RadiologyInfo, a website supported by the Radiologic Society of North America and the American College of Radiology, states that a lumbar MRI may cause malfunctioning of any metallic implants in the body. An implant is a man-made medical device which is used to replace a missing or damaged biological structure as well as for the enhancement of the existing biological structure. An MRI uses the strong magnetic field for obtaining the 3-D images, which can harm the metallic implants. Patients with implants are advised to discuss this in detail prior to undergoing a lumbar MRI.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions may develop after undergoing a lumbar MRI, reports Drugs.com. Allergic reactions in the form of hives may be found with the introduction of contrast medium into the body. This skin condition is characterized by the presence of small, itchy-red bumps and is usually localized and found in the area through which contrast medium is introduced into the body. Allergic reactions can be controlled by medications. Patients should contact a radiologist or a physician on reporting any sign of allergic reactions.

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