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Diagnostic Tests for Spine Disorders

Diagnosis of diseases and disorders of the spine begins with a thorough review of the patient’s health history and a physical exam. The neurosurgeon will ask questions to understand symptoms and when they started. He or she will evaluate the patient’s level of pain, reflexes, muscle strength, range of motion, and reactions to sensory stimulus. Diagnostic tests may include the following:

  • Laboratory tests to rule out metabolic abnormalities
  • X-Rays use electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of tissues, bones, and organs, and are performed to diagnose tumors or bone injuries.
  • Myelogram (myelography) is a diagnostic imaging procedure which combines the use of an injected contrast substance with X-rays or computed tomography (CT) to evaluate abnormalities of the spinal canal, the spinal cord, nerve roots, and other tissues.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging procedure that combines the use of a large magnet, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of soft tissues within the body. Bones do not obscure the images.
  • Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan) is a diagnostic imaging procedure that combines the use of X-rays and computer technology to produce many different views (slices) of the same body part. The images provide detailed views of bones and soft tissues.
  • Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) studies can detect problems with nerves, and are often used along with EMG to differentiate a nerve disorder from a muscle disorder.
  • Electromyography (EMG) is used to detect diseases stemming from problems with the muscle itself, and is often used with NCV to differentiate a muscle disorder from a nerve disorder.