What Your MRI Means to Your Disc Injury Claim

Doctor checking MRIIf you have a herniated disc injury, the results of your MRI will be crucial to the settlement value or trial value of your case. The insurance adjusters and lawyers will likely spend more time debating the significant of your MRI than any other part of your case.

Why so much debate of radiological films we can all see? The reality is that you can look at two identical MRIs. One patient will be in extreme pain. The other will not even know that she has a herniated disc. This is the backdrop for the battle over the value of these claims.

Our law firm has had a lot of success in these cases. Let's talk about herniated disc injury cases and the significance of the MRI results to your claim.

  • · Disc injury settlements and verdicts in Maryland
  • · Disc injury settlements and verdicts nationally
What is a Herniated Disc?

Spinal disc herniation (sometimes called a "slipped disc") is a common type of back injury or condition. The human spine has discs which function much like cushions or pads between the bones in your spine. These discs have a softer jelly like area in the center surrounded by an outer case that keeps everything together. Disc herniation occurs when the outer case deteriorates or tears allowing the soft center of the disc to bulge out.

Using an MRI to Diagnose Disc Herniation

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of medical imaging that utilizes digital magnetic fields to produce a detailed graphic image on a computer of the inside of your body. Whereas a traditional x-ray can only show outlines of bone structures an MRI can actually show multi-dimensional cross-section images of soft tissue that provide much more information. The additional level of detail offered by MRIs is often critically important to diagnosing a herniated disc. The reason for this is very simple - an MRI can actually show images of the discs between your spinal bones.

How Does an MRI Work?

An MRI machine has a large tube shaped opening. The patient lays down inside the tube while the machine performs a scan of their body. The process is non-invasive and completely painless. It can take a long time for the scan to be completed, however, and you have to remain completely still the entire time. The tube opening is usually very small and can feel confining so if you are claustrophobic you should discuss this with your doctor or the MRI technician in advance.

The science behind an MRI is pretty amazing. MRIs are based upon the principle that every cell in the body, like a magnet, has a positive and negative pole. So if you put a person's body inside a machine that has a magnet in it and turn the magnet on, all the normal cells of the body would line up. The]diseased, injured cells will not line-up. You then pass radio frequency waves through the part of the body being scanned. That then goes to a computer, which generates an image of the body being scanned. An MRI shows soft tissue and the spinal disks pretty clearly. In contrast, an x-ray sees bone very well but cannot show discs and soft tissue.

How to get an MRI to see if you Have a Herniated Disc

Disc herniation is a fairly common condition and can lead to pain in not just your back but also your legs and feet. Disc herniation is one of the most common injuries resulting from a car accident or similar collision. The impact of a typical auto accident can put significant force and pressure on the spine. In some cases the force of the impact can tear the outer casing of the spinal disc resulting is disc herniation. This can occur even in low-speed collisions. If you start to experience pain or discomfort after being in a car accident getting an MRI might be a very good idea.

If you are thinking about getting an MRI the first and somewhat obvious step is to go see your doctor. If you don't have a regular primary care doctor there are many walk-in / urgent care providers (e.g., Patient First or Righttime) that you can go to without an appointment. If the doctor believes an MRI might be necessary to diagnose your condition he or she will write a lab order and refer you to an MRI imaging lab to have the scan done. MRIs can be very expensive but if you have health insurance the cost should be fully covered.

What are the doctors looking for in an MRI of a disc? Your discs are the cushion between you vertebra. They are held in place by ligaments that run around and around the disk, as well as the ligaments that run back down the entire spinal column. The one that runs around and around the disk are called the annulus fibrosis. It holds within it the soft material of the disk, called the nucleus pulposa. It has the consistency of toothpaste. When the ligament that normally holds the disk material in places becomes ripped or torn or weakened, it allows the soft material of the disk to protrude, herniate, rupture.

Treatment for Disc Herniation

The course of treatment for a herniated disc typically starts out with a combination of medication (to limit inflammation) and physical therapy. Sometimes steroid injections will be administered to help the herniated disc shrink and heal. If this initial line of treatment is not successful there are a variety of surgical options are available to treat disc herniation. As you advance the ladder of treatment, the value of your case will likely increase. Of course, you preference would be to have a case that is worth less but a healthy discs for the rest of your life.

How do I Know if a Car Accident was Actually the Cause of my Disc Herniation?

Disc herniation can occur as a result of natural deterioration of the spinal discs that occurs as you get older. If you want to recover legal damages for your injury you will to show that your herniated disc was in fact caused by an auto accident or other collision as opposed to natural aging OR that your injury was made worse by the crash. If you plan to pursue legal action, you will eventually need to an opinion from a doctor that the car accident was the likely cause of your injury. In some cases, this conclusion might be simple and obvious on the MRI. If you are relatively young with no prior history of back issues and you start experiencing symptoms right after a car accident your doctor will have little difficulty concluding that the accident was the cause.

Most of our cases are not that clean. In cases where this conclusion is less obvious, the results of an MRI can be very helpful in establishing whether your injuries were caused by the accident. The results of an MRI scan can sometimes provide definitive evidence that your disc herniation was the result of acute trauma (consistent with a car accident) as opposed to chronic deterioration over time. These are the cases that almost always go to trial and these are the cases where the value of the case is so dependent on having a good lawyer.

If you are looking at your own MRI, you may see the words "degenerative," "arthritis," or "spondylosis." That tells you that films show that the insult to your spine occurred over time. But that does not mean your symptoms of injury are not related to the crash. Often what happens is that a patient has a asymptomatic herniated disc that because activated by trauma like a car accident. If you can prove this is the case, it does not matter if the MRI shows a preexisting injury. You are compensated for the harm the accident caused compared to where you would have been if the accident never occurred.

Contact Us About Your Herniated Disc

If you or someone you know was recently in a car accident and may have a herniated disc or other injury, contact our office at 1.800.553.8082 or submit a request for a free consultation.

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