Advertisement

How can x-ray help diagnose a spinal cord injury?

Luke Macyszyn, MD
Neurosurgery
X-rays are used primarily to assess bone integrity, not to diagnose a spinal cord injury. They can only show if there is a large bony fracture or dislocation in the spinal column.
Dr. Elif E. Oker, MD
Medical Toxicology

No, an x-ray cannot diagnose a spinal cord injury. X-rays are better at diagnosing bone injuries such as fractures or dislocations. A spinal cord injury is typically diagnosed with MRI. That said, x-rays demonstrating spinal fractures or dislocations may offer clues to the presences of a spinal cord injury.

X-rays are one radiographic tool used to assess sports injuries, broken bones, fractures, cancer, and some infections, as well as to rule out other serious problems. Depending on where your spinal cord injury occurs, a doctor may use an x-ray to make a fast diagnosis, especially if a CT scan is unavailable.

 An x-ray exposes your body to a small amount of radiation to produce an image of the internal organs. As the x-ray enters the body, it is absorbed differently depending on the organ or bone. For example, your ribs absorb much radiation and appear white on the image. Your lungs do not absorb as much radiation and appear darker.

A technician will take the x-ray of your body. The film is read by a radiologist, a doctor who is trained to read radiographic film. After the radiologist analyzes the x-rays, he or she will alert your doctor about the results. Because x-ray imaging is fast and efficient, it is useful for emergency situations. You will usually have the results back within a day.

Continue Learning about Spinal Cord Injuries

How can someone with a spinal cord injury go to the toilet?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
If someone with a spinal cord injury has trouble going to the toilet, his or her healthcare team wil...
More Answers
How can my healthcare team help with my spinal cord injury?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
You should have your own healthcare team to help with your spinal cord injury. It's important to tel...
More Answers
What Would an Exoskeleton Mean for Someone Who Is Paralyzed?
What Would an Exoskeleton Mean for Someone Who Is Paralyzed?
How Does the Ekso Exoskeleton Work?
How Does the Ekso Exoskeleton Work?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.