I am having surgery to take pressure off of the spinal cord in my neck. My doctor says the results of my MRI can be used to predict how I will do after surgery. Is this really possible?

As you may know, MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, a test that allows doctors to see pictures of tissues in the body. Certain patterns seen on MRI are thought to give an indication of how well a person will do after surgery to take pressure off the spinal cord. When the pattern shows lots of tissue damage in the spinal cord, the results of surgery may not be as good.

Though some patterns have been linked to surgery results, MRI is not a foolproof tool when it comes to predicting how all patients will do. In fact, a test like this is only one piece of the puzzle. Other factors, such as patients' age and how long they've had symptoms, come into play. Younger patients who haven't had symptoms as long seem to fare better than older patients who've had problems for longer. You may want to talk with your doctor to find out how your MRI fits with other information and test results.