Lumbar spine CT scan

Lumbar Spine CT Scan

A lumbar spine computed tomography (CT) scan is a type of imaging study that uses radiation to quickly take many detailed images of the lower backā€”the lumbar spine. It is often used to diagnose certain types of spinal injury or to provide more information about symptoms.


Before your lumbar spine CT scan, you may need to remove any jewelry or clothing that could interfere with the scan. You will be asked to lie on a table that slides into the CT scanner. The table may be cold and hard, so you may want to ask for a pillow or blanket to help you stay comfortable. It is important to remain still for the duration of the scan which typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes.


During the scan, you will hear a loud noise coming from the CT scanner. A radiologist or technologist will be in a separate room where the images are created, but you will be able to talk to them if you need to. You may also be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time since movement can blur the images.

Types of Lumbar Spine CT Scans

  • Standard CT Scan: Uses X-rays to create cross-sections of the spine and visualize the bones, discs, and other soft tissue.
  • CT Myelogram: Uses a combination of contrast dye and X-rays to produce images of both the bones and the spinal nerves.
  • CT Angiogram: Uses an injection of contrast dye and X-rays to take detailed images of the blood vessels.

Risks of Lumbar Spine CT Scans

Lumbar spine CT scans are generally very safe, but as with any procedure involving radiation, there may be a risk of radiation exposure. People who are pregnant, have preexisting respiratory, kidney, or liver conditions, or have had prior radiation therapy may be at a higher risk for complications.

Why is a Lumbar Spine CT Scan Needed?

A lumbar spine CT scan is a useful tool for diagnosing certain conditions, such as vertebral fractures, tumors, herniated discs, inflammation, or infection. It can also be used to evaluate the effects of surgery or other treatments. In some cases, it can provide more information than an X-ray, MRI, or other imaging tests.

When is a Lumbar Spine CT Scan Needed?

Your doctor may order a lumbar spine CT scan if you are experiencing back pain that is unexplained or if your pain becomes severe and doesn't go away. It is also used to diagnosis spinal trauma or to evaluate the effectiveness of certain treatments. If you are referred for a lumbar spine CT scan, discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician.