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Arthritis and Rheumatism

What Can a CT Scan Provide More Than a Regular X-ray?

03/13/2008

Question:

I have RA and my doctor had me get a CT Scan of my lower back. The waiting time for MRI`s is just too long. What can a CT Scan tell him more then a regular X-ray?

Answer:

In regards to spine imaging, a computed tomography (CT) scan produces excellent images of the vertebrae (back bones). The vertebrae are evaluated cross-sectionally in thin slices. Imagine looking at a loaf of bread face on where each image is the another slice of bread. This cross-sectional imaging also allows one to evaluate the caliber of the spinal canal where the spinal cord lays. These imaging techniques are just not possible on regular x-rays which are typically limited to front-to-back and side-to-side views. Neither CT scans nor regular X-rays produce adequate images of the intervertebral discs, spinal cord, or nerve roots. This is where MRI is superior.

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Response by:

Raymond  Hong, MD, MBA, FACR Raymond Hong, MD, MBA, FACR
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University