X-ray: Lumbar Spine

X-ray: Lumbar Spine

X-ray: Lumbar Spine

Alternative Names: Lumbosacral spine X-ray, Lower back X-ray

An X-ray of the lumbar spine (also known as a lumbosacral spine X-ray or a lower back X-ray) is done to investigate symptoms such as backache and leg weakness, which may be caused by arthritis or a slipped disc (disc herniation). An X-ray creates images by using radiation, which passes through the body. On the image, air is black, dense structures (e.g. bone) are white, and there are greys in between. You would normally lie still on an X-ray table while the images are taken. X-rays cannot visualise soft tissues such as nerves. If the problem is possibly a slipped disc and nerve root pressure (where nerves are squeezed by slipped discs), then imaging techniques such as CT or MRI scans may be necessary.

What is it?
An X-ray uses radiation, passed through the body, to create images. The different body structures appear as black, white, and shades of grey. Air is black, very dense structures (like bone) are white, with a range of greys in between.

An X-ray is performed in a radiology facility although some machines are mobile and can be used in hospital wards and operating theatres. An X-ray usually takes less than an hour to perform.

Why is it done?
A lumbar spine X-ray is done to examine the lower back.

It is often done to investigate symptoms such as:

  • Backache
  • Leg weakness

It is often done when considering diagnoses such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Disc herniation (slipped disc)

What happens?

Before – how to prepare
No special preparation is needed although all jewellery and other metal objects should be removed.

During – how the test is done
You lie on an X-ray table. You will be asked to lie in various positions while the X-rays are taken. There is no discomfort at all.

After the test
The results will be available a short time after the X-ray has been taken – usually an hour or so, depending on how quickly the radiologist is able to look at, and interpret, the images.

Risks and Compilations
There is a small risk associated with the radiation involved but most experts do not consider this to be a significant problem.

Special Issues
X-rays are not good at visualising soft tissues, such as nerves, and further imaging techniques like CT and MRI scans may be necessary, especially when considering problems such as disc herniation (slipped disc) and nerve root pressure (where nerves are squeezed by slipped discs).

Short Description
An X-ray of the lumbar spine (also known as a lumbosacral spine X-ray or a lower back X-ray) is done to investigate symptoms such as backache and leg weakness, which may be caused by arthritis or a slipped disc (disc herniation).

Keywords
lumbosacral spine X-ray, lower back X-ray, X-ray of the spine



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