BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

Positional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


Positional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows imaging of individuals in various positions, including sitting and standing, and is being evaluated for the diagnosis of individuals with position-dependent back pain. Determining the cause of back pain is a complex task and positional MRI is purported to provide a more accurate diagnosis since images may be taken while the individual is partial or full weight bearing.




The evidence is currently insufficient to evaluate whether the use of positional MRI improves health or treatment outcomes. Studies that correlate positional MRI findings with symptoms and outcomes of treatment are needed. Guidelines for interpreting positional MRI results have not been established due to the lack of data.


BlueCross BlueShield Association. Medical Policy Reference Manual. (3:2017). Positional magnetic resonance imaging (6.01.48). Retrieved March 23, 2018 from BlueWeb. (7 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

Diefenbach, C., Lonner, B., Auerbach, J., Bharucha, N., & Dean, L. (2013). Is radiation-free diagnostic monitoring of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis feasible using upright positional magnetic resonance imaging?  Spine, 38 (7), 576-580. Abstract retrieved June 6, 2016 from PubMed database.

Gilbert, J. W., Martin, J. C., Wheeler, G. R., Storey, B. B., Mick, G. E., Richardson, G. B., et al. (2011). Lumbar stenosis rates in symptomatic patients using weight-bearing and recumbent magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 34 (8), 557-561. (Level 4 evidence)

Hedberg, K., Alexander, L., Cooper, K., Hancock, E., Ross, J., and Smith, F. (2013, April) Low back pain: an assessment using positional MRI and MDT. Manipulative Therapy;18 (2):169-71. Abstract retrieved March 15, 2017 from PubMed database.

Tarantino, U., Fannucci, E., Iundusi, R., Celi, M., Altobelli, S., Gasbarra, E., et al. (2013). Lumbar spine MRI in upright position for diagnosing acute and chronic low back pain: statistical analysis of morphological changes. Journal of Orthopedics and Traumatology, 14, 15-22.  (Level 4 evidence)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2000, March). Center for Devices and Radiological Health. 510(k) Premarket Notification Database. K994287 (FONAR 360® Scanner). Retrieved March 15, 2017 from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2006, July). Center for Devices and Radiological Health. 510(k) Premarket Notification Database. K061930. Retrieved October 8, 2010 from

Winifred S. Hayes, Inc. Medical Technology Directory. (2014, September; last update search August 2017). Upright magnetic resonance imaging for diagnosis of spinal disorders. Retrieved March 23, 2018 from (43 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)




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