What kinds of imaging tests will my back doctor in Phoenix, Arizona, perform?

Patients in Phoenix visiting a back doctor for an initial consultation should expect to receive a comprehensive evaluation of their spine condition. This is so the doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatments possible. A physical exam will be performed to identify any signs of degeneration in the spine, such as swelling, inflammation or structural problems such as an abnormal curvature. Tests for reflexes and muscle strength might also be performed. Your doctor will also want to know about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and what treatments you have already tried.

In addition to the physical exam, your doctor might order imaging tests so that he or she can get a detailed view of the interior of the spine. Tests may include an MRI or CT scan. They will either be performed within your doctor’s facility, or you may be referred to an outpatient imaging center in the Phoenix area.

The differences between an MRI and a CT scan

CT scans and MRIs are two of the most common imaging tests used to diagnose degenerative conditions of the spine. Differences include:

  • MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic and radio waves to create computer-generated images of the body’s internal structures. MRI is a newer form of imaging and does not use radiation like X-rays and CT scans do. An MRI test can show soft tissue abnormalities in the spine as well as spinal narrowing and nerve compression.
  • CT scan. A computed tomography scan uses X-rays to create a 3-D view of the interior of the spine. It can capture images from different angles to create a unique cross-sectional view of tissues and bone. Contrast dye may be used to identify vertebral fractures or disc degeneration.

Should I have an MRI or CT scan?

In general, CT scans are more useful for detecting bone abnormalities while MRIs are more useful for detecting soft tissue issues, such as degeneration of a spinal disc. Both an MRI and CT scan are extremely valuable diagnostic tools for the detection of spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, bulging discs, bone spurs and spondylolisthesis. Your back doctor will determine which test is most suitable for you.

If you have been diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We offer minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery at our Scottsdale, Arizona, facility located near Phoenix. You can submit your MRI or CT scan for a no-cost review* by our knowledgeable staff to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.