Reference Index - Medical Tests

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Skeletal spine
Skeletal spine


Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)
Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)


Vertebral column
Vertebral column


Intervertebral disk
Intervertebral disk


Anterior skeletal anatomy
Anterior skeletal anatomy


Thoracic spine x-ray

Definition:

A thoracic spine x-ray is an x-ray of the twelve chest (thoracic) vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by flat pads of cartilage that cushion them.



Alternative Names:

Vertebral radiography; X-ray - spine; Thoracic x-ray; Spine x-ray; Thoracic spine films; Back films



How the test is performed:

The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider’s office. You will lie on the x-ray table and will be asked to lay in different positions. If the x-ray is to determine an injury, care will be taken to prevent further injury.

The x-ray machine will be positioned over the thoracic area of the spine. You will hold your breath as the picture is taken, so that the picture will not be blurry. Usually 2 or 3 x-ray views are needed.



How to prepare for the test:

Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.



How the test will feel:

Th test causes no discomfort. The table may be cold.



Why the test is performed:

The x-ray helps evaluate bone injuries, disease of the bone, tumors of the bone, or cartilage loss.



Normal Values:



What abnormal results mean:

The abnormalities the test will pick up include fractures , dislocations, thinning of the bone (osteoporosis ), and deformities in the curvature of the spine. The test may also detect bone spurs, disk narrowing, and degeneration of the vertebrae.



What the risks are:

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray.



Special considerations:

The x-ray will not detect problems in the muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues, because they can't be seen well on an x-ray.



References:

Stevens JM, Rich PM, Dixon AK. The spine. In: Grainger RC, Allison D, Adam, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 60.




Review Date: 8/8/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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