An important diagnostic tool, a Computerized Axial Tomographic Scan (CT or CAT Scan) combines X-rays with computer technology, offering more information than plain X-rays. CT scans are fast, safe, painless, and may be combined with other tests, such as myelograms and discograms, to achieve the most accurate diagnosis possible. Typically, the test takes 15 minutes to an hour, and solid food cannot be eaten for three hours prior to the exam. The CT scan is helpful for detecting herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, scoliosis, kyphosis and tumors and infections of the vertebra.
While receiving a CT scan, you’ll be lying on a table that moves you slowly through the CT scanner—a large donut-shaped machine. The machine passes a great number of thin X-ray beams, each of a low dosage and lasting only a fraction of a second, through your body at different angles as the scanner rotates around you. The machine uses a computer to detect the degree to which the tissues of the body are absorbing the X-rays and then reconstructs a three-dimensional image. One of the benefits of the CT scan is that gives a cross-sectional view of the spine, so the physician can essentially see inside the body to diagnose the condition. The CT scan is wide open. There are no issues with claustrophobia.
Although the CT scan is harmless, you are subjected to X-rays. So be sure to inform your physician if there is the possibility of pregnancy.