A low-dose CT scan is a quick, painless, and non-invasive approach to screen for lung cancer . This type of CT scan uses no dyes, no injections, and requires nothing to swallow by mouth. The actual scan itself takes less than a minute to complete and from start-to-finish, the entire appointment takes approximately 30-minutes.
A CT scan, commonly referred to as a CAT scan, is a type of X-ray that produces cross-sectional images of a specific part of the body. In the case of a lumbar spine CT scan, your doctor can see a cross-section of your lower back. The scanning machine circles the body and sends images to a computer monitor, where they are reviewed by a technician.
A lumbar spine CT scan carries very few risks. The contrast dye used during the procedure may cause temporary kidney damage, though. This risk is higher if your kidneys have already been damaged by disease or infection. Newer dyes carry much less risk to the kidneys. Allergic reactions are also extremely rare. As with any X-ray, there’s some exposure to radiation. Although it’s typically harmless, this is an important issue for women who are pregnant or could be pregnant. The amount of radiation used is considered safe for adults, but not for a developing fetus and should be used with caution in children.
How to Identify?
A CT scan is one of many imaging tests your doctor may use to investigate problems with your spine. This includes pain due to injuries, disease, or infection.
Other reasons your doctor might order a lumbar CT scan include:
- Back pain accompanied by fever
- A herniated disk
- Injury to the lower spine
- Low back pain
- Spinal surgery preparation
- Weakness, numbness, or other problems with your legs
A CT scan is not the same as an MRI. An MRI of the lumbar spine shows the bones, disks, and spinal cord. MRIs can also show the spaces between the vertebral bones that nerves pass through.
CT scans are performed in a hospital’s radiology department or at a clinic that specializes in diagnostic procedures. A technician will ask you to lie on your back during the test. The technician may use pillows or straps to ensure that you stay in the correct position long enough for a quality image to be obtained. You may also have to hold your breath during brief individual scans. Using a remote from a separate room, the CT technician will move the table into the CT machine. You may go through the machine several times. Depending on the reason for your scan, you may be hooked up to an IV so that contrast dye can be injected into your vein during the test. This dye helps the machine take clear images of your blood vessels and organs.
What to Do?
Results from a CT scan typically take a day to process. Your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the results of your scan. Your doctor will also tell you how to proceed depending on the findings. Additional imaging scans, blood tests, or other