What is the test?
- CT scans are pictures
taken by a specialized x-ray machine. The machine circles your
body and scans an area from every angle within that circle.
The machine measures how much the x-ray beams change as they
pass through your body. It then relays that information to
a computer, which generates a collection of black-and-white
pictures, each showing a slightly different
“slice” or cross-section of your internal organs.
Because these “slices” are spaced only about a quarter-inch
apart, they give a very good representation of your internal
organs and other structures. Doctors use CT scans to evaluate
all major parts of the body, including the abdomen, back, chest,
A CT scan is not a very common test to have done for back problems.
It does a better job showing the abdominal internal organs than
showing details of the bones in the spine. But some back pain
is caused by problems in these internal organs, such as the pancreas
or the kidney. The CT scan is an excellent way to examine these
organs. Also, the CT scan can be combined with a test called
a "myelogram" (discussed separately) to give a clear
view of the spinal cord and places where the vertebral bones
might be pinching it.