How is CT scanning used in the workup of cervical radiculopathy?

Updated: Oct 08, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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CT scanning

  • CT scanning provides good visualization of bony elements and can be helpful in the assessment of acute fractures. It can also be helpful when C6 and C7 cannot be clearly seen on traditional lateral radiographic views. The accuracy of CT imaging of the cervical spine ranges from 72-91% in the diagnosis of disc herniation.

  • CT scanning with myelography has an accuracy approaching 96% for diagnosis of cervical disc herniation. Furthermore, the addition of contrast material allows for the visualization of the subarachnoid space and assessment of the spinal cord and nerve roots. CT scanning with myelography is preferable to plain CT for assessment and localization of spinal cord compression and any underlying atrophy. This study can also determine the functional reserve of the spinal canal in evaluating athletes with possible cervical stenosis.

  • Even with myelography, however, soft-tissue visualization with CT is inferior to that provided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). For that reason, MRI is replacing CT scanning for imaging of most cervical spine disorders.

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