Is a Thoracic Spine X-Ray?
A thoracic spine X-ray is an imaging test used to inspect any problems
with the bones in the middle of your back.
An X-ray uses small amounts of radiation to see the organs,
tissues, and bones of your body. When focused at the spine, an X-ray can help
spot abnormalities, injuries, or diseases of the bones.
Your spine is divided into three main sections: cervical,
thoracic, and lumbar. Each is made up of different sections of vertebrae, the
bones that stack on top of one another to make up your spine. Your cervical
spine has seven vertebrae and makes up your neck. Below it is the thoracic
spine, with 12 vertebrae that are attached to your rib cage. Next is the lumbar
spine with five vertebrae. The lumbar spine is followed by your sacrum and then
your coccyx, or tailbone.
Along with your vertebrae, your spine also has discs of cartilage
that pad the spaces between the bones. This allows the upper half of your body
to twist and move independently from the lower half. Your body and your brain
also communicate using the nerves that travel down the center of your spine.
a Thoracic Spine X-Ray Is Done
An X-ray is one way your doctor can help uncover the cause of
your back pain, which may be a result of an injury (such as a fracture),
disease, infection, or other condition.
Your doctor might order a thoracic spine X-ray to further
- birth defects that affect the spine
- bone spurs
- dislocation of a vertebral bone
- herniated disk
- injury to the lower spine
- low back pain
- multiple sclerosis
- pinched nerve
- signs of cancer
An X-ray is only one of many tests your doctor may use to help
determine the cause of your back pain. They may also order an MRI scan, an ultrasound,
bone scan, or a CT scan. Each test provides a different type of image, which
allows your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and choose the proper
Risks of a Thoracic Spine X-Ray
All X-rays will expose you to a small amount of radiation. The radiation
levels are considered safe for adults and typically are harmless. However, be
sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or believe you may be pregnant.
The radiation levels are not considered safe for a developing fetus.
to Prepare for a Thoracic Spine X-Ray
X-rays are standard procedures and involve almost no preparation.
You will need to remove any jewelry and other unnecessary metallic items from
your body. These can make the X-ray images harder to read. Make sure to tell
your doctor if you have any metal implants in your body from prior procedures.
Before the exam, you will change into a hospital gown to prevent
any buttons or zippers on your clothing from affecting your X-ray.
a Thoracic Spine X-Ray Is Performed
X-rays are performed in a hospital’s radiology department or a
clinic that specializes in such diagnostic procedures. Once you are fully
prepared, an X-ray technician (radiologist) will help you settle in and place
you in the proper position.
The technician may require you to lie in several positions during
the test, including on your back, side, and stomach. Some images may be taken
while you stand in front of a specialized plate that contains X-ray film or
As you lie down, the technician will move a large camera connected
to a steel arm over your lower back. This will capture the X-ray images of your
spine, using film held in the table.
While the images are being taken, you will have to hold your
breath and remain still. This provides your doctor with the clearest possible
a Thoracic Spine X-Ray
When your radiologist is satisfied with the images, you can
change back into your regular clothes and go about your day as normal.
Results from your X-ray may be available on the same day. Your
radiologist and doctor will review the images. Your doctor will determine how
to proceed, depending on what the X-rays show. Your doctor may order additional
imaging scans, blood tests, or other diagnostic measures to help you get an
accurate diagnosis and begin treatment.