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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Spine

Results

A computed tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures camera.gif of the spine and vertebrae camera.gif in the neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbosacral spine).

Complete 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 are normal.

The spinal canal is normal in size and shape.

If contrast material is used, it flows evenly through the spinal canal. No narrowing or blockage of the spinal canal is present.

None of the nerves leaving the spinal cord are compressed or pinched. No growths or bulges are present.

Abnormal:

Spinal bones (vertebrae) are missing, damaged, or out of alignment.

One or more discs may be damaged. One or more herniated discs camera.gif 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 osteoporosis.

A condition that has been present from birth (congenital condition) is present in the spine or the vertebrae.

An abscess or spinal tumor is found.

What Affects the Test

The following may stop you from having the test or may change the test results:

  • Pregnancy. CT scans are not usually done during pregnancy.
  • Barium used for another test. Barium shows up on a CT scan. If a CT scan of the lower back is needed, it should be done before any tests that use barium, such as a barium enema.
  • Metal objects in the body. These items, such as surgical clips or metal in joint replacements, may prevent a clear view of the body area.
  • You are not able to lie still during the test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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