Cervical spine CT scan

What is a CT scan of the Cervical Spine?

A CT scan of the cervical spine is a diagnostic imaging test performed to assess the vertebrae, discs, and other surrounding structures in the neck. It is also referred to as a C-spine CT scan. A CT scan is a noninvasive, radiation-free procedure that shares some features with a traditional x-ray. It is used to diagnose certain conditions of the neck such as cervical disc herniation, spinal stenosis, instability and other forms of trauma. It is also used to plan surgical procedures on the spine.


Most of the time, no preparation is required for the CT scan. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and you may be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, and any other metallic objects you are wearing.


Before the procedure begins, the patient is asked to lie down on a table before being moved into the CT machine. During the scan, the patient will need to remain very still while X-ray beams are rotated around the head and neck, while special filters and detectors record the images. The procedure usually takes less than 20 minutes to complete.

Types of CT scans

  • Single-slice CT scan - This type of scan takes pictures of a certain area such as the cervical spine.
  • Multi-slice CT scan - This type of scan takes multiple images of the area being studied at the same time.
  • 3D CT scan - This type of scan reconstructs the images taken in three dimensions providing more detailed images.

Why Cervical Spine CT Scan?

A CT scan of the cervical spine can be helpful to diagnose diseases or conditions of the spine, such as spinal stenosis, cervical disc herniation, spinal fractures, and instability. It can also help to plan surgical procedures that involve the vertebrae or discs. It is also useful for examining the spinal cord and the surrounding structures like the nerves and the blood vessels.

When is Cervical Spine CT Scan Used?

The CT scan of the cervical spine is generally done when a patient has spinal pain and no other diagnosis has been established. It is also done to further assess injury after an accident or traumatic injury. It can be used in cases of suspected spinal tumors or infections, or other neurological conditions.

Risks of Cervical Spine CT Scan

Generally, CT scans are considered to be very safe. Some risks of using radiation include the potential for causing a radiation-induced cancer. Pregnant women or those breastfeeding are advised to refrain from undergoing CT scans. The CT scan may reveal medical conditions that may require further investigation, so it is best to talk to your doctor about any concerns before the procedure.