Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic tests are used to detect, confirm, or rule out the presence of injury involving the extremities and spine. They can be used to screen for certain conditions following injury and to monitor progress with recovery.

There are a number of different types of diagnostic tests. Common tests and procedures include the following:

X-rays are a type of radiation called electromagnetic waves. X-ray imaging creates pictures of the inside of your body. The images show the parts of your body in different shades of black and white. This is because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation. Calcium in bones absorbs x-rays the most, so bones look white. Fat and other soft tissues absorb less, and look gray. Air absorbs the least, so lungs look black.

When you have an x-ray, you may wear a lead apron to protect certain parts of your body. The amount of radiation you get from an x-ray is small. For example, a chest x-ray gives out a radiation dose similar to the amount of radiation you’re naturally exposed to from the environment over 10 days.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a large magnet and radio waves to look at structures inside your body. Healthcare professionals use MRI scans to diagnose a variety of conditions, from torn ligaments to fractures. MRIs are very useful for examining the brain, extremities and spinal cord.

During the scan, you lie on a table that slides inside a tunnel-shaped machine. Doing the scan can take a long time, and you must stay still. The scan is painless. The MRI machine makes a lot of noise. The technician may offer you earplugs.

Computed tomography (CT) is a type of imaging. It uses special x-ray equipment to make cross-sectional pictures of your body. The scan can be particularly effective in identifying subtle fractures that may not be readily visible on x-rays.

During a CT scan, you lie still on a table. The table slowly passes through the center of a large X-ray machine. The test is painless. During some tests you receive a contrast dye, which makes parts of your body show up better in the image.

Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) and electromyography (EMG) and are electrodiagnostic tests that measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerves. These tests may be an important part of a spine patient’s workup by their doctor.

Some patients with a spine-related problem report unexplained symptoms, numbness and/or tingling sensations, muscle cramping, or weakness in an extremity (eg, one or both arms, legs). NCV and EMG join forces to help get to the bottom of why those symptoms are occurring.