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Spinal CT; CT - lumbosacral spine
A lumbosacral spine CT is a computed tomography scan of the lower spine and surrounding tissues.
You will be asked to lie on a narrow table that slides into the center of the CT scanner. You will need to lie on your back for this test.
Once inside the scanner, the machine's x-ray beam rotates around you. (Modern "spiral" scanners can perform the exam in one continuous motion.)
Small detectors inside the scanner measure the amount of x-rays that make it through the part of the body being studied. A computer takes this information and uses it to create several individual images, called slices. These images can be stored, viewed on a monitor, or printed on film. Three-dimensional models of organs can be created by stacking the individual slices together.
You must be still during the exam, because movement causes blurred images. You may be told to hold your breath for short periods of time.
In some cases, an iodine-based dye, called contrast, may be injected into your vein before images are taken. Contrast can highlight specific areas inside the body, which creates a clearer image.
In other cases, a CT of the lumbosacral spine may be done after injecting contrast dye into the spinal canal during a lumbar puncture to further check for pressure on the nerves.
The scan will usually last a few minutes.
You should remove all jewelry or other metal objects before the test, as they may cause inaccurate images.
The x-rays are painless. Some people may have discomfort from lying on the hard table.
Contrast may cause a slight burning sensation, a metallic taste in the mouth, and a warm flushing of the body. These sensations are normal and usually go away within a few seconds.
CT rapidly creates detailed pictures of the body. A CT of the lumbosacral spine is an excellent tool for evaluating fractures and degenerative changes of the spine, such as those due to arthritis.
Bhatia RG, Sklar EM. Neuroimaging: Structural neuroimaging. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 36A.
Grainger RG, Thomsen HS, Morcos SK, Koh DM, Roditi G. Intravascular contrast media for radiology, CT and MRI. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 2.
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