What Is Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
Thoracic Spine CT (computed tomography) scan (also known as CAT scan) is a painless radiology exam. This is performed to examine the cause of pain in the middle back (thoracic spine) in a non-invasive manner.
In this scan, multiple images of the bones, soft tissues, and organs of the middle back are generated. This scan is also known as Middle-Back CT Scan, CT Scan – Upper Back and CAT Scan of the Thoracic Spine.
The thoracic spine CT scan helps doctors in detecting inflammatory conditions, infection, tumors, spinal damage, and other abnormalities in the middle back.
The CT scan of the thoracic spine may be done with or without the use of contrast material (dye) that is either taken by mouth (orally) or injected into the veins. When the contrast material is used, the organs are seen more clearly in the scanned images.
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Who Should Get a Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
Your doctor may recommend a CT scan of the thoracic spine if you have one or more of the following symptoms or ailments:
- Direct significant trauma or injury to the back
- Mild trauma in people who are less than 50 years old
- Pain in the middle back with fever
- Numbness or weakness in the legs
- Stiffness on the back, arms, shoulders, and legs
- Unexplained weight loss
- Birth defects of the spine
- Recent infection in the back
- Problems controlling the bladder
- Osteoporosis (causes bones to become weak and brittle)
- History of the brain or spinal cancer
- Had surgery to the middle spine within the past 10 years
What is the Purpose of a Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
Your doctor may recommend a thoracic spine CT scan to:
- Evaluate pain in the middle back due to injuries following trauma, dislocation, or fracture.
- Look for injuries to the middle back after an accident.
- Identify inflammation of the middle back.
- Detect birth defects of the thoracic spine in children.
- Identify blood clots and infections in the spine.
- Investigate tumors and cancer of the thoracic spine.
- Check for broken bones.
- Use it as a guide during the biopsy (procedure of tissue removal) or fluid removal from an infected area in the thoracic spine.
- Plan and prepare for spinal surgery.
- Assess the effects of spinal surgery or other therapy.
- Detect diseases of the middle back such as:
- Herniated or slipped disk (problem with the disc between the spinal bones)
- Osteoarthritis in the spine (swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints)
- Scoliosis (a condition in which the spine curves to the left or right)
- Multiple Sclerosis disease (affects the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in the eyes)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine)
Your doctor may also ask you to take the Lumbar Spine CT Scan (Lower Back) to confirm the diagnosis for abnormalities in the lower back. Your doctor may also recommend the Arthritis Screening Panel test to understand your symptoms thoroughly and assess your risk for arthritis disease. Depending on the results, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.
How Is a Thoracic Spine CT Scan Performed?
- Before starting the CT scan of the thoracic spine, you will have to remove all the metal objects on your body, including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures.
- A technologist will ask you to lie down on your back with your arms raised above your head on the CT scanner table.
- The scanner table will move slowly through a doughnut-shaped machine.
- Once you are inside the CT scan machine, multiple images of your middle-back area will be taken, and these will be displayed on a monitor.
- At certain points during the scan, the technologist will ask you to hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds. Make sure you don’t move during the scan as any movement can blur the images.
In case, your doctor has asked you to take a thoracic spine CT scan with contrast, then a contrast dye will be injected into your vein shortly before the scan begins.
How Long Does a Thoracic Spine CT Scan Take?
A CT scan of the thoracic spine is usually completed within 10 to 20 minutes.
Is Radiation Involved in a Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
Yes. CT scan is an imaging test, which involves a small amount of radiation to show images of the organs, tissues, and bones of the middle back.
Are There Any Risks in Taking a Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
- The risk for radiation exposure is low in a single CT scan. However, the effects of radiation and the risk of developing cancer due to radiation will increase with every CT scan a person gets.
- Developing babies are sensitive to radiation and are at more risk, so women should inform their doctors and the CT scan technicians if they are pregnant.
- People who have implants containing metal, such as implanted screws or pacemakers, may not get accurate CT scan results.
- Some people might also have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in a CT scan.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Once the CAT scan of the thoracic spine is completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How Should I Prepare for a Thoracic Spine CT Scan?
Please refer to the simple preparation guidelines given below or consult with your doctor or radiology center where you are being treated. Do not forget to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.