What is the role of CT scanning in the workup of spinal cord injury (SCI)?

Updated: Nov 01, 2018
  • Author: Lawrence S Chin, MD, FACS, FAANS; Chief Editor: Brian H Kopell, MD  more...
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Computed tomography (CT) scanning is reserved for delineating bony abnormalities or fracture. Some studies have suggested that CT scanning with sagittal and coronal reformatting is more sensitive than plain radiography for the detection of spinal fractures. [34, 41]

Perform CT scanning in the following situations:

  • When plain radiography is inadequate or fails to visualize segments of the axial skeleton

  • Convenience and speed: If a CT scan of the head is required, then it is usually simpler and faster to obtain a CT of the cervical spine at the same time. Similarly, CT images of the thoracic or lumbar spine might be easier and faster to obtain than plain radiographs.

  • To provide further evaluation when radiography depicts suspicious and/or indeterminate abnormalities

  • When radiography depicts fracture or displacement, CT scanning provides better visualization of the extent and displacement of the fracture

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