Common uses of CT scanning of the spine
Using CT, the bony structure of the spinal column is clearly and accurately shown, as are the intervertebral discs and, to some degree, the spinal cord. Other common uses include:
- Evaluation of the spine before and after surgery.
- In patients with narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal, vertebral fracture, infection or degenerative disease such as arthritis, CT of the spine may provide important information when performed alone or in addition to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Assess for developmental anomalies of the spine or scoliosis.
- Detect various types of tumors in the vertebral column, including those that have spread there from another area of the body. Some tumors that arise elsewhere are first identified by finding deposits of malignant cells (metastases) in the vertebrae; prostate cancer is an example.
- Guide diagnostic procedures such as the biopsy of a suspicious area to detect cancer, or the removal of fluid from a localized infection (abscess).
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Remove metal objects such as jewellery, glasses, dentures, hairpins, underwire bras and piercings.
- Bring a list of any allergies and current medications and inform your doctor of them in advance of appointment.
- Inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or medical conditions and whether you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems.
- Women should inform their Doctor and the Radiologist if there is a posibility that they are pregnant.
Image courtesy of Siemens Healthcare
What will I experience during my scan?
Occasionally a contrast material is used via an intravenous line through your arm. You will feel a pin prick when the needle is inserted into your vein. You will likely have a warm, flushed sensation during the injection of the contrast material and a metallic taste in your mouth that lasts for at most a minute or two. You may experience a sensation like you have to urinate; however, this is actually a contrast effect and subsides quickly. In the majority of cases contrast is not required in this type of examination.
After a CT exam, if an intravenous line was used to inject contrast material through your vein, it will be removed and you can return to your normal activities.
Who interprets the results and how do I receive them?
A Consultant Radiologist with expertise in supervising and interpreting radiology examinations will analyse the images and send an official report to your referring physician, who will discuss the results with you.
Follow-up examinations may be necessary, and your doctor will explain the reason why. Sometimes a follow-up examination is carried out because a suspicious or questionable finding needs clarification with the advice of another physician or a special imaging technique. It may also be necessary for monitoring any abnormality over a period of time to determine if it is stable or has changed.