What is Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
A lumbar spine (lower back) X-ray is a painless radiology exam. This is performed to examine the cause of unexplained pain and discomfort in the lower back area in a non-invasive manner.
This scan is also known as Lumbosacral Spine X-Ray, X-Ray – Lumbosacral Spine, and X-Ray – Lower Spine.
In this scan, multiple images of the bones and soft tissues in the lower back or lumbar spine are generated. Generally, the images of the lumbar spine are taken in three different positions—one from the front in which the X-ray beams pass from front-to-back (anterior-posterior or AP view), one from the back in which the X-ray beams pass from back-to-front (posteroanterior or PA view), and other from the side (lateral view).
Lumbar spine X-ray is mainly useful in emergency diagnosis and treatment because it is a quick and easy scan. It helps doctors in assessing the level of injury to the lower back after an accident and in detecting infections, tumors, or other abnormalities in the lower back bones.
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Who Should Get a Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
Your doctor may recommend a lumbar spine X-ray if you have:
- Experienced an acute trauma or injury to your lower back area
- Severe pain in the lower back with fever
- Persistent pain, weakness, or numbness in your arms.
- Mild trauma in people who are less than 50 years old
- 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 spinal cancer
- Had surgery to the lower spine within the past 10 years
What is the Purpose of a Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
A lumbar spine X-ray will help your doctor:
- Evaluate unusual severe pain in the lower back area that lasts for more than four to eight weeks.
- Detect fractures or broken bones in the lower back.
- Examine the dislocation of the joints in the lower back.
- Check the thinning of the lower back bones because of osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become brittle and weak).
- Detect signs of infections, cysts, bone tumors, or cancer of the lumbar spine.
- View the effects of disease, injuries, or infection on the lumbar spine.
- Look for the abnormal curving of the spine or growths on the lumbar spine bones (bone spurs).
- Check for inflammation of the lower-back joints (osteoarthritis).
- Check changes in the lower back joints due to age-related wear and tear (thoracic spondylosis).
- Detect and investigate birth defects of the lumbar spine.
- Help plan lower back or lumbar spine surgery.
- Monitor the changes in the lower back after an operation done within the past 10 years.
Your doctor may also ask you to take the Lumbar Spine MRI (Lower Back) to confirm the diagnosis for abnormalities in the lower back area. Your doctor may even recommend the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) and Calcium tests to check the status of your metabolism and measure the level of calcium in your blood. Depending on the results, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.
How is a Lumbar Spine X-Ray Performed?
- Before starting the lumbar spine X-ray, you will have to remove all the metal objects on your body including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures.
- Depending on your condition, a technologist will ask you to lie down on your back on a special radiology table (if you have a suspected spinal injury) otherwise you will be asked to sit straight on the table.
- The X-ray machine will be placed in front of your lower back, while a specialized plate containing the X-ray film will be positioned behind it.
- The X-ray machine will then send a beam of X-ray radiation through your lower back and will take an image that will be displayed on a monitor.
- The technologist will then ask you to lie in a different position to obtain the necessary view and will again take an image. This process will be repeated until all the necessary views have been obtained.
- At certain points during the scan, the technologist will ask you to sit still and hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds. Make sure you don’t move during the scan as any movement can blur the images.
How Long Does a Lumbar Spine X-Ray Take?
A lumbar spine X-ray is usually completed within 15 minutes, but the actual exposure time to radiation is usually less than a second.
Is Radiation Involved in a Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
Yes. An X-ray is an imaging test that involves a small amount of radiation to show images of the organs, tissues, and bones of the body.
Are There Any Risks in Taking a Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
- The risk for radiation exposure is low in a single X-ray. However, the effect of radiation and the risk of developing cancer due to radiation increases with every X-ray a person gets.
- Developing babies are sensitive to radiation and are at more risk, so women should inform their doctors and the X-ray technicians if they are pregnant.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Once the Lumbar Spine X-ray is completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How Should I Prepare for a Lumbar Spine X-Ray?
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.