X-rays are typically the first line of examination conducted to identify irregularities in the spine. It is a quick, cost-efficient, and reliable diagnostic employed when patients present symptoms of spine ailments. It is also used in cases of emergency where acute traumatic injuries have occurred.
X-rays produce detailed images which enable the examination of your skeletal structure. Occasionally, X-rays can detect irregularities in soft tissues, such as connective tissues along the spine.
Depending on the presentation of symptoms, your neurosurgeon may request one or more radiography variations;
It is essential to declare if you are pregnant or have had X-rays conducted recently to evaluate the safety of further radiation exposure. The radiation levels emitted during an X-ray are often negligible and deemed appropriate as the benefits outweigh the risks.
An X-ray fundamentally utilises ionising radiation, which passes through the body and is absorbed in different amounts depending on the density of the matter it passes through. Since bones are denser than tissues, they capture in detail the skeletal structure of one’s body. On the other hand, fat, muscle, and tissues are displayed vaguely in this form of imaging.
During a spine x-ray, you will be requested to stand or sit still in the radiographic imaging room. The technician then leaves the room to activate the X-ray machine, which sends X-ray beams through your body. You may be requested to position yourself in different stances if a variation of X-rays is requested. The whole process will take approximately 15 minutes.
X-rays are typically preferred as a first-level medical investigation and in acute trauma cases. Whilst efficient in diagnosing spinal skeletal issues, X-rays can also detect other irregularities in the body. Detection range may include;
A spine X-ray is a reliable diagnostic tool to identify issues, particularly at earlier stages of symptom presentation of spinal problems. In some cases, it is sufficient for a diagnosis to be obtained and treatment plans to be laid out. However, if the issue is evasive or further investigation is necessary, an MRI or a CT scan may be necessary.
When the exact cause of symptom presentation is identified, your neurosurgeon will provide a comprehensive explanation of the findings, followed by the appropriate diagnosis. A treatment plan will also be recommended to relieve your symptoms and a pathway towards recovery.
Typically, your neurosurgeon will request a few points of angles to be taken within a single X-ray session. If the issue is unclear, you will be asked to undergo further investigation with a CT scan or MRI. An X-ray may also be employed to monitor the progression of your condition. The exact frequency of required X-ray scans will be discussed in detail during your consultation.
Rest assured, you will not undergo excessive X-ray scans to ensure radiation exposure is maintained at safe levels. If deemed risky, alternatives will be explored by your doctor.
Yes, an X-ray can show tumours on the spine, particularly tumours known as vertebral haemangiomas. However, more is needed to provide a diagnosis conclusively. Further investigation would be required to determine the size of the tumour, whether it is malignant (cancerous) or benign, and to monitor the growth of the tumour. Ultimately, it provides an insight into the presence of any abnormalities.
X-rays can indicate some inflammatory presence in the spine, particularly in the latent stages of inflammation progression. In latent stages, your bones may exhibit signs of fusing, sacralising, and calcifying, all of which are signs of inflammation in the bone.
However, it may be harder for an X-ray to detect inflammation in the earlier stages of your condition. Given that earlier detection increases the chances of recovery, it is rare for your neurosurgeon to be dismissive of the symptoms exhibited. Instead, you will be advised to undergo tests for further examination. Conditions that cause spine inflammation include transverse myelitis, spinal arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.