When you go to your doctor about spine-related aches and pains, you’ll likely undergo a physical exam and be asked to discuss your symptoms. But image tests are often needed to confirm a suspected issue or get a better idea of what’s going on with your spine. One of the most reliable tests used for this purpose is a computerized tomography (CT) scan. This is why we’re going to discuss the benefits of getting a spinal CT scan.
Sometimes called a CAT scan, a CT scan uses computer technology to combine information from several X-rays to produce a comprehensive view of internal structures. Because of the way a CT scan is done, it produces more detailed images than what’s possible with a standard X-ray. Specific benefits associated with a CT scan of the spine include:
• Accuracy – The images of bones, joints, and soft tissues are an accurate visualization of spinal structures.
• Cost-effectiveness – When compared to other types of image tests, spinal CT scans are considered cost-effective.
• Excellent image detail – Unlike a standard X-ray, a CT scan can show a detailed view of bones, soft tissues, and blood vessels at the same time.
• 3D models – The images produced by a spinal CT scan can be used to create a 3D model of the affected part of your lower, middle, or upper back. The same thing can be done if you have neck pain.
• No issues with implanted medical devices – It’s usually not possible to have an MRI if you have an implanted medical device. This isn’t an issue with a CT scan.
• Greater accuracy in needle placement – If your discomfort is related to abnormal tissue that needs to be collected with a needle biopsy for testing, a CT scan can produce real-time images that can be used to improve needle placement accuracy.
• Reduced need for unnecessary procedures – Because of the detail provided by a CT scan, it’s often possible to avoid unnecessary surgeries or biopsies.
• No lingering radiation – Once the CT scan is completed, no radiation will remain in your body.
A CT scan is a painless image test that usually doesn’t take that long. It’s typically done at a clinic or in a hospital. During the test, you’ll be inside a tunnel-like machine that allows images to be taken from different angles. Once the computer produces the final images, your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon will be able to use the results to make a diagnosis and come up with a personalized treatment plan.
Generally, risks associated with a CT scan are low. However, let your doctor know if you’re pregnant or nursing so it can be determined if this type of test is appropriate for you. Also, realize that results from a CT scan may be combined with other tests, such as diagnostic injections or nerve conduction studies, if your source of back pain is proving to be difficult to pinpoint.
Imaging tests such as CT scans can be very effective at diagnosing a wide range of spine-related issues, and they often help doctors make final decisions about recommended treatment, which may eventually include a surgical procedure such as extreme lateral interbody fusion. Santa Monica residents who are experiencing severe or prolonged pain in the back or neck should contact the spine specialists at The Spine Institute. Our cutting-edge treatment methods and pioneering physicians lead the spinal health industry, and we have decades of experience with every aspect of back pain and how to alleviate it. To schedule a consultation, call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757.