How To Prepare
Before the X-ray test, tell your
doctor if you are or might be pregnant. The
risk of radiation exposure to your unborn baby (fetus) must be
considered. The risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared
with the potential benefits of the test. If a spinal X-ray is absolutely
necessary, a lead apron will be placed over your belly to shield your baby
from the X-rays.
You may need to take off any jewelry that may be in the way of the X-ray
picture, such as if you have a pierced belly button.
You don't need to do anything else before you have this
Talk to your
doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks,
how it will be done, or what the results will mean. 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 spinal X-ray is taken by a radiology
technologist. The X-ray pictures are usually read by a doctor who specializes
in reading X-rays (radiologist).
You will need to remove any
jewelry that may be in the way of the X-ray picture. You may need to take off
some of your clothes, depending on which area is examined. You will be given a
cloth or paper gown to use during the test. You may be allowed to keep on your
underwear if it does not get in the way of the test.
X-ray test, you will lie on an X-ray table. If the X-ray is being taken because
of a possibly serious injury to your neck or back, to prevent causing more injury a radiologist will look at
the first X-ray pictures before taking others.
If you have a neck brace (cervical collar) in place, X-ray pictures may be
taken and a physical exam done to see whether the brace can be taken off
without hurting the spine.
Usually 3 to 5 X-ray pictures are
taken. You need to lie very still to avoid blurring the pictures.
A spinal X-ray usually takes about 15 minutes. You will wait about 5
minutes until the X-rays are processed in case more pictures need to be
taken. In some clinics and hospitals, X-ray pictures can be shown right away
on a computer screen.
How It Feels
You will feel no discomfort from the
X-rays. The X-ray table may feel hard, and the room may be cool. You may find
that the positions you need to hold are uncomfortable or painful, especially if
you have an injury.
There is always a slight risk of damage to
cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels
of radiation used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is
usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.
For example, the radiation exposure from a chest X-ray is about equal to
the natural radiation exposure received during a round-trip airline flight from
Boston to Los Angeles (or Montreal to Vancouver) or 10 days in the Rocky
Mountains (Denver, Colorado).