Thoracic spine CT scan

Thoracic Spine CT Scan

A thoracic spine CT scan is a specialized imaging test that uses a combination of x-ray and computer technology to create detailed pictures of the interior structures of the thoracic part of the spine. This test is used to identify problems such as tumors, fractures, herniated discs, and other spine conditions.


To prepare for a thoracic spine CT scan, your physician may advise you to wear clothing with no metal buttons or zippers. Additional preparation may also include the use of a contrast material that is injected into a vein in order to better view certain areas of the spine.


During a thoracic spine CT scan, you will be asked to lie on a table that slides in and out of a doughnut-shaped CT scanner. The table will move slowly through the scanner as the machine takes x-ray pictures of the spine from many angles. The test can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the complexity of the scan.


There are two types of thoracic spine CT scans that may be performed: a conventional CT scan and a 3D or multi-slice CT scan. A conventional CT scan takes x-rays from multiple angles and enables physicians to view the entire thoracic region of the spine. A 3D or multi-slice CT scan takes a series of pictures along the z-axis of the body and creates a three-dimensional image of the thoracic spine.


Potential risks associated with thoracic spine CT scans include exposure to radiation and a possible reaction to the contrast material. However, in most cases, the benefits of the test outweigh the risk. Your physician will discuss the risks associated with the test before it is administered.

Why It Is Done

A thoracic spine CT scan is typically ordered when a patient is experiencing pain or numbness in the middle or upper back, or when other imaging tests have been unable to provide a clear diagnosis. A CT scan of the thoracic spine is also used to evaluate patients who have had back surgery to check for complications.

When It Is Done

A thoracic spine CT scan may be done at any point during the evaluation of back or neck pain. It can be done as part of a routine medical exam, during a workup for a specific injury or condition, or to monitor the progression of a spine condition.