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What are Cervical Spine CT Scans?

A doctor or physician may order a CT scan of the cervical spine and neck to make detailed pictures and analyze the internal structure. Computerized tomography (CT) scanning is useful to get a very detailed 3D image of certain parts of the body.

The process begins by taking many different X-ray views at various different angles, which are then combined with the use of computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissue inside of your body, including tissues inside of solid organ. Ordinary X-ray testing does not show clear images of soft tissue, so doctors often request CT scanning to get a good image of soft tissue including organs, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and the brain. Sometimes a contrast dye is used as it shows up clearer on the screen.

During a quality CT scan of the cervical spine, a doctor will be able to see cross-sections of your neck and upper spine. The CT scan may also be called a neck CT scan.

Reasons for a Cervical Spine and Neck CT scan: 

CT scans are used for a multitude of reasons. They may be done to check for certain cancers in various different ways including to detect abnormal tumors, growths or lumps. They also identify the location of tumors, the stage of cancer, and where to perform a biopsy.

A cervical spine and neck CT scan can be used to guide doctors or surgeons during a procedure, such as a biopsy. They are important in planning for certain types of therapy and surgery, as well as in the aftermath to determine whether the patient’s body is responding to treatment.

CT scans can be used to detect cysts or infections in the body. They can also identify the bone structures within the body and can accurately measure the density of bone.

A CT scan is often used to quickly inspect a patient after an accident in order to identify traumatic internal injuries.

A Cervical Spine and Neck CT scan may help diagnose (find): 

A cervical spine and neck CT scan can help doctors identify herniated discs as well as broken bones.

CT scans of the cervical spine can diagnose bone diseases by measuring the bone density including arthritis or osteoporosis.

A CT scan of the cervical spine may be requested for a child in order to find birth defects of the spine.

The test may be completed in order to assist a doctor during tissue removal, fluid removal or as a guide during surgery.

When a CT of the neck is taken, the spine, airway, carotid vessels and other vasculature as well as salivary and thyroid glands are also included for doctors to view. In many cases, the jaw bone, mouth and tongue, pharynx and larynx, including the vocal cords, are shown.

Doctors frequently order a neck CT to evaluate parotid or submandibular gland lesions or infections, head and neck diseases, various abscesses or masses, even foreign bodies that are lodged in the neck or upper airway. CT scans of the neck many times also reveal tumors or infections involving the vocal cords.

Neck CT exams are often used to study a lump or mass or to look for enlarged lymph nodes or glands in the neck.

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