When a spinal problem has been diagnosed the doctor may wish to have a scan performed to confirm the diagnosis and shed more light into the optimum treatment modality for the patient. These may be vital in confirming the diagnosis and give clear view of the pathological changes and, indeed, the normal areas, of the spine. Other areas, including the brain, large joints and soft tissues ( e.g. the liver) can be scanned if the clinical picture requires this. There are various types of scans available at our nearby centres see below for more details.
We can refer you for the following at one of our nearby centres:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a type of scan used to diagnose different health issues. An MRI picks up the magnetic fields in the tissues; the doctor can then use to the image to diagnose the problem.
MRI can be used to look at all the "soft tissues", discs, nerves, joint linings etc. They are less accurate in looking at bone.
MRI scans do not involve radiation and therefore are safe, although they are not recommended in early pregnancy
These scans can be taken in either the lying down position, using a tube scanner, the conventional type, or in the upright position, using one of the newer sitting or even standing scanners.
Normal lumbar MRI scan Damaged lumbar spine MRI scan
Fluid in the spinal canal is white. Spinal canal is narrowed by disc bulging
A CT scanner uses x-rays, which revolve around the patient to build a "slice" of information through the body or even a 3D image.
X-rays are used to look mainly at the bones, showing if a bone is broken (fractured) or has slipped out of place. For the spine is can show abnormal curves which can cause pain.
EOS produces full body length pictures of a patient standing in a single scan. It produces frontal and lateral digital images. Because the EOS scanner uses a very fine pair of x-ray beams, the overall dose of radiation received by the patient is any times lower than that from normal x-rays. This makes the EOS scanner more suitable for younger patients.
A discogram is a test, which, like some spinal injections, can be used to determine precisely where pain is coming from. The team have performed several hundred discograms, which often change the plan regarding surgery or other treatments. As the round picture shows, injecting contrast into the discs can show the areas of damage clearly, but also reproduces the patient's normal pain.
A SPECT scan, standing for Single Photon emission Computed Tomography shows the blood flow through certain areas. If an area of the spine is inflammed this may be increased, showing up as a "hot spot", yellow or white, on the scan.
Some patients will need more than one type of scan or other x-ray test to fully work out their problem(s) and their response to treatment. X-ray based scans must be avoided during pregnancy - always tell your doctor, before having any scan, if there is a chance you might be pregnant.
EOS image showing scoliosis The EOS scanner
Discogram: 4 needles in the lumbar discs. The top one is normal, causing no pain; the three below are all damaged, leak and cause pain.
CT SPECT scan before and after isotope injection showing "hot spots"