A CT scan (see Figure 1) is essentially a fancy x-ray that can take cross section images of the body.
They provide excellent bony detail, yet through multiple views are also capable of imaging for back pain caused by specific conditions, such as:
Like an X-ray, a CT scan works by shooting an X-ray beam through the body. Next, a computer is used to reformat the image into cross sections of the spine. This process is repeated at multiple different intervals.
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As a result, the spinal canal can be imaged and assessed for specific conditions. With its excellent bony detail, CT scans are very useful for assessing fractures.
Because X-ray beams are utilized, the image does not clearly show nerve roots. CT scans will image large disc herniations but can miss smaller ones.
CT scans should not be performed for women who may be pregnant.