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Patient Education - Lung Cancer Program at UCLA

Educating yourself about lung cancer:

Tests and studies: Spine x-ray

Thoracic spine x-ray

Skeletal spineDefinition

A thoracic spine x-ray is an x-ray of the 12 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 performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider’s office by an x-ray technician. You will lie on the x-ray table and assume various 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 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.

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.

Risks

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.

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.


Review Date: 8/3/2005
Reviewed By: Jonathan Gross, M.D., Department of Radiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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