When is computed tomography of the spine, joints or the skeletal system carried out?
The focus of a CT scan of the musculoskeletal system is on the assessment of the shape and structure of the bone. MRI and sonography (ultrasound) are more suitable for imaging the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, articular cartilage). Due to its calcium content the bone is very radioopaque and can be seen in sharp contrast to the surrounding soft-tissue structures. The administration of contrast agents is not usually required.
CT scans of the musculoskeletal system are carried out:
- following an accident
- in the case of complex fractures or fractures in areas of the body which are
- anatomically difficult to assess
- for conclusive evidence of the presence or absence of a fracture, if the conventional X-ray image only provides a suspected diagnosis
- when planning before an operation and for after-care treatment following surgery
- if slipped discs or constrictions of the nerve exit zones are suspected (mainly in the lumbar spine area)
- as a secondary procedure when treating bone tumours or inflammatory bone changes (primary: conventional X-ray or MRI)
Computed tomography of the spine
The CT examination of the spine is the most suitable method for classifying and assessing the severity of spinal injuries, thus especially for fractures of the vertebral body. A quick assessment of such injuries is of particular necessity for accident victims, as the spinal cord, which runs through the spinal canal in the vertebral column, may also be affected by the injuries – including the risk of paraplegia.
In addition, a CT scan of the spine is to some extent also suitable for the assessment of changes in the soft tissue, such as in the diagnosis of slipped discs. The further procedure here however, is MRI.
The spinal column may furthermore indicate many other pathological processes. It is often affected, for example, by bacterial inflammations, rheumatic disorders or bone metastases of malignant tumours.
In older age, the spine generally shows more or less discernible signs of wear, which can also lead to pain and restricted mobility.
The CT examination of the spine is the most suitable method for classifying and assessing the severity of spinal injuries. In addition, it is to a certain extent also suitable for the assessment of changes in the soft tissue, such as in the diagnosis of slipped discs.