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Investigation and assessment | About the spine | Norwich Spine Clinic

Norwich Spine Clinic

For appointments or confidential
discussion call 01603 505 063

The Norwich Spine Clinic is based at
the Spire Norwich Hospital, Norfolk
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Information for GPs

Your spine is one of the most important and complex parts of your body - keeping it healthy is vital if you want to lead an active and pain free life.

Investigations

For successful management and treatment of your back pain, it is vital to understand exactly what is causing it. That requires a thorough investigation and assessment of what is causing the problem.

So alongside a physical examination with your consultant, you may also need one or more of these investigations to show more detail and information, given the complexity of the spine.

Here's some more info on the main investigation methods and why we use them:

X-ray

This well-established technique is widely available so often used first to aid diagnosis.

Your body is exposed to X-rays for a fraction of a second and as these X-rays hit a photographic plate behind you, an image is captured that can be studied in more detail. The procedure is painless and the amount of radiation you are exposed to is very small.

X-rays are a very effective way of detecting problems with spinal bones, as well as disc problems by showing the space between the bones. We are also able to do the x-ray with the patient standing , bending forward and backwards which gives the physician a functional position of the spine under normal working conditions.

For more info on X-rays and how the procedure is carried out visit the NHS website.

MRI scan

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body without any exposure to radiation. It is a extremely valuable tool in assessing the patient with a spinal condition.

An MRI scan is a very effective way of checking for damage or abnormalities to the spinal cord or the soft tissue around the spinal bones.

Disc herniations, compression of the spinal cord, cysts, tumours and infections can all be detected using this method.

For more info on MRI scans and how they are carried out, visit the NHS website.

CT scan

A computerised tomography (CT or CAT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create pictures (tomographs) of inside your body.

More detailed than X-rays, the tomographs show organs, blood vessels, bones and tumours and produce a 3D image of your spine.

It can be used to assess bone density when investigating osteoporosis and show small fractures, as well as look at damage to soft tissues such as discs and nerve roots.

For more info on CT scans and how the procedure is carried out, visit the NHS website.

DEXA scan

A dual-energy X-ray (DEXA) scan checks the 'density' of bones. It is more accurate than regular X-rays and involves less radiation exposure than CT scans.

A DEXA scan is typically used to diagnose and monitor osteoporosis. It compares your bone density result with that of either a young healthy adult or an adult of your own age, gender and ethnicity and gives you a score which indicates your risk of bone fractures.

For more info on DEXA scans and how they are carried out, visit the NHS website.