Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Spine
How It Feels
The test will not cause pain.
The table you lie on may feel hard, and the room may be cool. It may be hard to
lie still during the test.
Some people feel nervous inside the CT
If you get medicine to help you relax or if contrast material is used, you may have an IV put in
your hand or arm. You may feel a quick sting or pinch when the IV is started.
The dye may make you feel warm and flushed and give you a metallic taste in
your mouth. Some people feel sick to their stomach or get a headache. Tell the
technologist or your doctor how you are feeling.
If you have
dye put in your back, you may feel a sting or pinch when the needle is put
After a test in which the dye is put in your back, you will be
told to keep your head up and to not bend over or lie flat. This will help
prevent headaches and
The chance of a CT scan causing a problem is
- There is a chance of an
allergic reaction to the contrast material.
- If you have diabetes or take metformin
(Glucophage), the dye may cause problems. Your doctor will tell you when to
stop taking metformin and when to start taking it again after the test so you
will not have problems.
- You may have nausea or vomiting after the test.
is a small chance of an infection at the needle site on your spine or bleeding
into the space around the spinal cord.
- An injection into the space around the spinal cord may
cause a headache. Rarely, seizures may occur after an injection of contrast material.
- There is a small chance of developing
cancer from having some types of CT
scans.1 The chance is
higher in children, young adults, and people who have many
radiation tests. If you are concerned about this risk, talk to your doctor
about the amount of radiation this test may give you or your child, and confirm
that the test is needed.
A computed tomography (CT) scan uses
X-rays to make detailed pictures of the
spine and vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine),
upper back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbosacral spine).
results usually are ready for your doctor in 1 to 2 days.
CT scan of the spine
| Normal: |
Spinal bones (vertebrae) are
normal in shape, number, and alignment.
The discs and joints that support the spine
The spinal canal is normal in size and
contrast material is used, it flows evenly through the
spinal canal. No narrowing or blockage of the spinal canal is
None of the nerves leaving the spinal cord
are compressed or pinched. No growths or bulges are present.
Spinal bones (vertebrae) are missing,
damaged, or out of alignment.
One or more discs may be damaged. One or
herniated discs are found.
The flow of contrast material through the
spinal canal is restricted or blocked, indicating narrowing of the canal (spinal stenosis).
The vertebrae show signs of
arthritis or bone problems caused by
A condition that has been present from
birth (congenital condition) is present in the spine or the vertebrae.
spinal tumor is found.