Magnetic resonance neurography (MRN) uses the power of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to accurately look at nerves anywhere in the body with high resolution. A specialist who has expertise in nerve imaging can find the exact location of damaged nerves and diagnose a broad range of nerve problems.
When a nerve problem is suspected in patients with persistent pain, routine spine imaging will diagnose only some of the possible causes. In many cases, however, the source of the pain lies in the peripheral nerves, or nerves outside of the spinal canal. When a peripheral nerve injury is suspected, MRN, along with a specialist with experience in reading MRN exams, may be necessary for a proper diagnosis.
Diagnosing Peripheral Nerve Conditions With MRN
Our board-certified musculoskeletal radiologists use MRN to diagnose a range of conditions that involve peripheral nerves.
Common nerve issues that cause pain include nerve irritation, swelling, compression, pinch, or injury. Some specific nerve conditions include:
- Piriformis syndrome: A disorder that occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed by the piriformis muscle, a flat muscle located in the buttocks.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: A group of disorders whose symptoms include shoulder and neck pain and numbness in the fingers. It is caused by compression of blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib.
- Pudendal neuralgia: Chronic groin and perineal pain due to issues with the pudendal nerve, which runs from your lower back to your perineum (skin between the pubic bone and the tailbone).
- Parsonage-Turner syndrome: A peripheral nerve disorder that causes severe pain followed by weakness, usually in the shoulder and arm. It is also known as brachial neuritis or neuralgic amyotrophy.
- Nerve sheath tumors: Non-cancerous tumors that grow from a nerve. Neurofibromas and schwannomas are the most common types of nerve sheath tumors.
What To Expect From the Test
MRN uses state-of-the-art MRI scanners, which provide the most high resolution images available today. Patients will experience no difference between an MRN and MRI exam.
The exam is painless and involves no radiation. An MRN test will take approximately 45 minutes to one hour.