When the spine is x-rayed the beams pass through the skin and underlying soft tissues (e.g. muscle, ligaments, tendons). When the beams meet bone (vertebra) it stops creating a white shadow on the film. A bone abnormality is reflected on the finished film. Shades of gray mirror the density of the different tissues. X-rays are best for looking at bone. They are not helpful for looking at soft trauma.
X-rays are widely used today and are often called radiographs. These tests are not performed at random. An x-ray would most likely be performed when spine or extremity pain (e.g. leg, arm) is severe or chronic and progressive. An x-ray may rule out particular problems involving bone and some soft tissue disorders. When an x-ray proves inconclusive additional tests may be ordered especially if something suspicious is detected.
CT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT or CAT scan, is a diagnostic medical test that, unlike traditional x-rays, produces multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body. The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images. These images can be viewed on a computer monitor or transferred to a CD or DVD. CT images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels typically provide greater detail than traditional x-rays, particularly of soft tissues and blood vessels. Using specialized equipment and expertise to create and interpret CT scans of the body, radiologist can more easily diagnose problems such as cancers, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, appendicitis, trauma and musculoskeletal disorders. Here at AMA we utilize the Siemens Sensation 64 CT scanner. With this advanced technology we are also able to offer specialized non-invasive services such as CT arteriograms and Cardiac studies while using Dose modulating software to insure the lowest radiation exposure possible.