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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Spinal problems and back pain

Question: Thoracic spine MRI - what can it show?

 spill - Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:14 pm

I just had a thoracic spine MRI for nagging back pain. The pain is in the T5-T8 region on the left side only, several inches from the spine, over the scapula. I am concerned about a possible tear or damage to a muscle/tendon/etc, while my doctor seems focused only on spinal problems.

I am wondering what areas of back the thoracic spine mri will show. How far away from the spine does it cover? Would it show a muscle tear that is 3-5 inches away from the spine?
 Tom Plamondon PA-C - Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:25 am

User avatar Hello,
Muscle tears in the mid scapular areas are rare. MRI certainly will show the discs and vertebrae in the spine.
I do not know off hand how far out the scan will go laterally toward the scapula however the radiologist should know.
If there is any shoulder blade discomfort with arm movement and/or the muscles near the scapula are tender, you may focus the attention there and request some physical therapy.
Without further details or being able to evaluate the shoulder first hand, it is hard to tell exactly what is going on with the spine or shoulder.
Some other ways to differentiate scapular problems from thoracic problems is to isolate the different parts during movement. For example, does pressing down on the thoracic spinous processes hurt. Does manually applied movement solely of the scapula hurt. Coughing, sneezing, or deep breathes can affect both areas as the underneath scapular muscles attach to the ribs.
Hope this helps some and keep us posted.

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