A thoracic spine x-ray is an x-ray of the twelve chest (thoracic) vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by flat pads of cartilage that cushion them.
Vertebral radiography; X-ray - spine; Thoracic x-ray; Spine x-ray; Thoracic spine films; Back films
The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office. You will lie on the x-ray table and will be asked to lay in different positions. If the x-ray is to determine an injury, care will be taken to prevent further injury.
The x-ray machine will be positioned over the thoracic area of the spine. You will hold your breath as the picture is taken, so that the picture will not be blurry. Usually 2 or 3 x-ray views are needed.
Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.
Th test causes no discomfort. The table may be cold.
The x-ray helps evaluate bone injuries, disease of the bone, tumors of the bone, or cartilage loss.
The abnormalities the test will pick up include fractures, dislocations, thinning of the bone (osteoporosis), and deformities in the curvature of the spine. The test may also detect bone spurs, disk narrowing, and degeneration of the vertebrae.
There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray.
The x-ray will not detect problems in the muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues, because they can't be seen well on an x-ray.
Stevens JM, Rich PM, Dixon AK. The spine. In: Grainger RC, Allison D, Adam, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 60.
Review Date: 8/8/2009
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