CT scan: cervical spine

CT scan: cervical spine

CT scan: cervical spine

Alternative Names: CT scan of the neck

A CT (Computerised Tomography) scan of the cervical (neck) spine is performed to investigate problems associated with the neck, spinal cord, and nerve roots in the spinal cord. These problems include neck pain, weakness in the arms and legs, and injuries to the spine. It assists in the diagnosis of conditions such as disc herniation (discs that protrude out of the bones of the spine and press on the nerve roots), fractured vertebrae, tumours, and arthritis. A CT scanner is a tunnel-like machine that takes X-rays that are then transformed into detailed images by a computer. In some cases a contrast medium containing iodine may be used to enhance the image and people with an allergy history should proceed with caution. Caution is also advised in pregnant women as the radiation exposure may cause harm to the unborn baby.

What is it?
Computerised Tomography (CT) is a sophisticated x-ray that uses a computer to create detailed images.

A CT scan of the cervical spine (neck) scans the neck vertebrae, spinal cord, and nerve roots (the point at which the nerves leave the spinal cord). It is done in a radiology facility and takes less than an hour to perform.

Why is it done?
A CT scan of the neck may be done when investigating symptoms such as:

  • Neck pain
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Spinal injuries

It assists in the diagnosis of the following conditions:

  • Disc herniation (where an intervetrebral disc protrudes and puts pressure on the nerve roots)
  • Fractured vertebrae (from an injury or osteoporosis)
  • Bone Tumours (most commonly secondary to spread from tumours elsewhere)
  • Arthritis (an inflammatory condition involving the joints between the vertebrae)

What happens?

Before – how to prepare
You will need to sign a consent form but no other special preparations are needed. Any jewellery, or other metal objects, should be removed.

During – how the test is done
You lie on a stretcher, which is then moved through the tunnel-like scanner. The machine then takes a sequence of images. The machine may be quite noisy, and some people feel a little claustrophobic inside the “tunnel” but there is no pain or discomfort involved at all. It is important to lie still during the procedure, as movement will distort the images.

A special dye, called contrast media, may be injected into a vein in your arm to enhance the images.

After the test
The images are transferred onto x-ray film and then interpreted by a radiologist.

Risks and Compilations
Radiation – although there is radiation exposure, it is considered very low grade and relatively safe. Caution is, however, advised in pregnant women as the radiation may cause harm to the unborn baby.

Allergy to contrast – most contain iodine and if there is a history of allergy caution is advised.

Short Description
A CT (Computerised Tomography) scan of the cervical (neck) spine is performed to investigate problems associated with the neck, spinal cord, and nerve roots in the spinal cord.

Keywords
CT scan of the neck, CT scan cervical spine, CT scan, CAT scan, cat scan



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