(Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral, or Coccygeal X-ray Studies)
X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. Standard x-rays are performed for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors or bone injuries.
X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body tissues onto specially-treated plates (similar to camera film) and a "negative" type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film). Instead of film, x-rays may also be made by using computers and digital media.
When the body undergoes x-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the x-ray beams to pass through. Images are produced in degrees of light and dark, depending on the amount of x-rays that penetrate the tissues. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the x-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the x-rays to pass through and appears white on the x-ray. At a break in a bone, the x-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.
X-rays of the spine may be performed to evaluate any area of the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, or coccygeal). Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose spine, back, or neck problems include myelography (myelogram), computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or bone scans. Please see these procedures for additional information.
The spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae that are separated by spongy disks and classified into distinct areas.
The spinal cord, a major part of the central nervous system, is located in the vertebral canal and reaches from the base of the skull to the upper part of the lower back. The spinal cord is surrounded by the bones of the spine and a sac containing cerebrospinal fluid. The spinal cord carries sense and movement signals to and from the brain and controls many reflexes.
X-rays of the spine, neck, or back may be performed to diagnose back or neck pain, fractures or broken bones, arthritis, spondylolisthesis (the dislocation or slipping of one vertebrae over the one below it), degeneration of the disks, tumors, abnormalities in the alignment of the spine such as kyphosis or scoliosis, or congenital abnormalities.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend an x-ray of the spine, neck, or back.
You may want to ask your physician about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of x-rays, so that you can inform your physician. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of x-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If it is necessary for you to have a spinal x-ray, special precautions will be made to minimize the radiation exposure to the fetus.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
An x-ray may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.
Generally, an x-ray procedure of the spine, neck, or back follows this process:
While the x-ray procedure itself causes no pain, the manipulation of the body part being examined may cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The radiologic technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
Generally, there is no special type of care following an x-ray of the spine, back, or neck. However, your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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