What is a cervical spine CT scan?

CT scan of the cervical spine (or CT cervical spine) is a specific test that is performed to further examine the bony structures and articulation of the cervical spine (neck) vertebrae.

How is a CT cervical spine performed?

A CT cervical spine is performed in the radiology department scanning room, with the patient lying flat (supine) on a CTtable.

The head is placed in a comfortable ‘docking pillow’ and the CT scanner gantry (donut) passess over and around the patient to perform the scan.

The gantry travels over the patient from the level of the jaw to the upper shoulders to create the scan.

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When would you need a CT cervical spine?

A CT cervical spine is useful in patients who have suffered trauma to the neck following an injury.

It is a more powerful tool to evaluate potential bony trauma in patients with normal cervial spine X-Rays (up to 20% of cervical spine fractures may be missed on plain X-Rays alone); or to determine the extent of potential spinal cord impingement in patients with significant fractures on plain cervical spine radiology (X-Rays).

Indication in patients who have suffered a neck injury include:

  1. Mental status less than alert or intoxicated
  2. Patient complaining of neck pain
  3. Midline neck bony tenderness
  4. Neurological signs and symptoms

CT cervical spine scan results explained

CT cervical spine scans are interpreted by an experienced radiologist.

It provides highly detailed information regarding the cervical vertebrae (bony structures of the neck).

In particular, evidence of the following may be highlighted:

  • Fractures
  • Articular dislocations
  • Degenerative bony disease
  • Malignancy
  • Congenital bony abnormalities

Soft tissue structures such as ligaments are better visualised using an MRI scanner.

Related specialists

Related tests

Also known as

  • C-spine CT
  • CT neck

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.