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

Luke Macyszyn, MD
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

Where can I get support for my spinal cord injury outside the hospital?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
You can get support for your spinal cord injury outside the hospital from your healthcare team as we...
More Answers
Why is it necessary to quit smoking before spine surgery?
Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, MDDr. Hooman M. Melamed, MD
It is of paramount importance to quit smoking before any surgery, especially spine surgery. There ar...
More Answers
Who Controls the Exso Exoskeleton?
Who Controls the Exso Exoskeleton?
How Will We Use Exoskeleton Technology in the Future?
How Will We Use Exoskeleton Technology in the Future?

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.