Diagnostic Tools for Spine Injuries

Diagnostic testing is necessary to properly identify where a spinal problem is and its severity. Fortunately, there are various, highly sophisticated diagnostic tools available to aid the surgeon in diagnosing spinal cord injuries.

The particular diagnostic tools for spine injuries depend upon the nature of the injury. Also, doctors may complete some diagnostic tests in conjunction with others.

By using the correct diagnostic tools, a doctor can plan the best treatment for each patient. Except for emergencies, most patients with back pain will undergo several weeks of conservative therapy. Doctors may only use these diagnostic tools if conservative therapy does not work or if the pain grows increasingly worse.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Any suspected spinal cord injury may constitute a medical emergency. In this case, any diagnostic tests may be done in an emergency room. Many of the tests used for suspected spinal cord injuries are the same as the ones used for other types of spine injuries. Doctors may take blood from the patient for lab analysis. This allows them to indicate whether infection or some other sort of metabolic abnormality is present.


An X-ray can show whether there is a fracture in the spinal area, or if there are degenerative changes and certain tumors. Because X-rays are a relatively inexpensive procedure that can provide important information, almost all patients with spine problems will undergo this diagnostic test. If an X-ray does not provide substantial information about the cause of back pain, more extensive diagnostic tests may be ordered.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Usually referred to as an MRI, this diagnostic tool used for spinal cord injuries reveals the soft tissues of the body. Magnetic refers to a large magnet, part of this diagnostic tool that also consists of computer and radio frequencies. MRIs can identify blood clots and disk herniation, among other spinal problems.

Computed Tomography Scans

Better known as a CAT or CT scan, this technology provides doctors with a better view of bone, disk, and other issues. CAT scans perform cross-sectional images, so doctors can get a clearer image of the spinal column and any potential issues.


A myelogram allows the doctor to examine both the spinal canal and spinal cord. This procedure requires doctors to take a spinal tap. It also requires them to inject a dye into a patient’s spinal sac. When the area is X-rayed, the dye delineates the spinal cord and nerve roots. After this test, they take a CAT scan, which reveals how the nerve roots are affected by the bones.

Bone Scans

Bone scans can detect smaller tumors or small fractures that X-rays cannot pick up. This diagnostic tool requires a small amount of radioactive marker material to be inserted into an intravenous line. Several hours later, the patient will go through the scanner and the marker should concentrate on areas with high bone turnover, or evidence of resorption and formation. Once a bone scan identifies a problematic area, an MRI or CAT scan is necessary for more specific diagnosis.


Electromyography (EMG) technology detects diseases involving the muscles. This test records the electrical activity of muscle tissue and allows doctors to detect any medical abnormalities. A nerve conduction velocity study shows problems with spinal nerves. It is often used in conjunction with an electromyography to differentiate between nerve or muscle disorders.

Ask a Doctor About Diagnostic Tools for Spine Injuries

You should not let back pain go untreated. If you suffer from back problems and conservative treatment has not helped, it is essential to get to receive a correct diagnosis so proper treatment may begin.

Call a spine doctor today to arrange an appointment and ask about diagnostic tools for spine injuries. They can help discover what is causing your back pain so that you can begin working to alleviate it.