CT of the Spine

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A CT scan, or CAT scan, is a common term for computerized tomography, a diagnostic imaging test that displays two and three dimensional images of internal structures of the body on a computer screen. Cat Scan uses a narrow beam of X-rays and high-powered computers to generate images of bones and soft-tissues in the body and spine.


Need to Know

Nice to Know
  • •Please inform the technologist if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant
  • •Please inform your doctor if you are allergic to contrast
  • • If your exam is being done with contrast, do not eat solid foods 2 hours prior to your exam,
  • •If you are over 65 years old, have kidney disease, or are diabetic your physician will need to send you for a blood test before the day of the exam.
  • •Take all of your prescribed medications as scheduled
  • This exam is usually completed within 20 minutes
  • •Non-invasive and painless
  • •Allows for more accurate diagnosis than traditional x-ray


Why is This Exam Done?

A CT scan of your cervical- thoracic -and lumbar spine allows the radiologist to look at different levels or slices of the middle back using a rotating X-ray beam. The radiologist is able to view each slice to assess for injuries, including ruptured disks and other bony abnormalities.

What Will Happen During the Exam?

  • While positioning you on an exam table, the technologist will explain your procedure and answer any questions you may have.
  • If contrast dye is being used, it will be injected through your IV.
  • During the injection, you may experience a warm sensation all over your body and a metal taste in your mouth. This is normal.
  • If you experience any itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, scratchy throat or swelling of your face, please notify the technologist immediately.
  • You will be asked to lie flat on your back.
  • The exam table will slide into the scanner, only covering the part of your body which is being studied. The scanner is open at the back and the front, allowing you to see out.
  • The technologist will always be able to see and hear you during your exam.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath for a short time while the scanner takes a series of pictures. The time it takes to actually acquire images is very brief.
  • The images will be reviewed, and if necessary, some may be repeated.
  • This procedure usually takes approximately 20 minutes.

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How Should I Prepare?

What to Wear

Please dress in comfortable clothing.  Leave all jewelry and valuables at home


Please take all the medications that have been prescribed to you by your doctor. Let our staff know what medications you have taken prior to your exam.

Food and Drink

You should not eat solid foods for two hours prior to your test, if your procedure is scheduled with contrast. You may, however, drink plenty of clear fluids, such as water and broth.

What Should I Bring?

If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.

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What Are the Benefits and Risks?

The benefits of CT of the Spine:

  • Can provide more detailed, accurate results than traditional x-ray
  • Option for 3D imaging and analysis
  • Can detect problems/disease earlier
  • Involves minimal risks
  • Painless, noninvasive and accurate
  • Fast and simple
  • Can be performed if you have an implanted medical device, unlike MRI
  • May eliminate the need for exploratory surgery or biopsy

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Where Can I Get This Exam?

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