Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Spine
A CT scan uses
X-rays to make detailed pictures of the spine and vertebrae .
test, you will lie on a table that is attached to the CT scanner, which is a
large doughnut-shaped machine. The CT scanner sends X-rays through the body.
Each rotation of the scanner takes a second and provides a picture of a thin
slice of the organ or area being studied. One part of the scanning machine can
tilt to follow the curve of your spine. All of the pictures are saved as a
group on a computer. They also can be printed.
In some cases, a
dye called contrast material may be put in a vein (IV) in your arm or into the spinal canal. The dye makes structures and organs easier to see on the CT
pictures. The dye may be used to check blood flow and look for
tumors, areas of
inflammation, or nerve damage.
Why It Is Done
CT scan of the spine is done to:
- Look at the bones of the spine
- Find problems of the spine, such as tumors,
fractures, deformities, infection, or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis).
- Find a
herniated disc of the spine.
- Check to see
osteoporosis has caused
- Check on problems
of the spine that have been present since birth (congenital).
at problems seen during a standard X-ray test.
- Check how well
spinal surgery or therapy is working for a spine problem.
How To Prepare
Before the CT scan, tell your doctor
- Are or might be pregnant.
- Are allergic to any medicines, including iodine
- Have a heart condition, such as
diabetes or take metformin (Glucophage) for your
diabetes. You may have to adjust your medicine for a day before and
after the test.
- Have had kidney
- Have had
- Have had an X-ray test using barium
contrast material (such as a
barium enema) or have taken a medicine that contains
bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol) in the past 4 days. Barium and bismuth show up
on X-ray films and make it hard to see the picture clearly.
very nervous in small spaces. You need to lie still inside the CT scanner, so
you may need a sedative to help you relax.
Arrange for someone to take you home in case you get a
sedative for the test.
Talk to your
doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for
the test, its risks, or how it will be done. To help you understand the
importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
A CT scan is usually done by a
radiology technologist. The pictures are usually read
doctor (radiologist). Other doctors also may review a CT scan.