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Thoracic spine x-ray

Vertebral radiography; X-ray - spine; Thoracic x-ray; Spine x-ray; Thoracic spine films; Back films

 

A thoracic spine x-ray is an x-ray of the twelve chest (thoracic) bones (vertebrae). The vertebrae are separated by flat pads of cartilage called disks that provide a cushion between the bones.

How the Test is Performed

 

The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office. You will lie on the x-ray table in different positions. If the x-ray is checking for an injury, care will be taken to prevent further injury.

The x-ray machine will be moved over the thoracic area of the spine. You will hold your breath as the picture is taken, so that the picture will not be blurry. Usually 2 or 3 x-ray views are needed.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

Tell the provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

The test causes no discomfort. The table may be cold.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

The x-ray helps evaluate:

  • Bone injuries
  • Cartilage loss
  • Diseases of the bone
  • Tumors of the bone

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

The test can detect:

  • Bone spurs
  • Deformities of the spine
  • Disk narrowing
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Thinning of the bone (osteoporosis)
  • Wearing away (degeneration) of the vertebrae

 

Risks

 

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

 

Considerations

 

The x-ray will not detect problems in the muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues, because these problems cannot be seen well on an x-ray.

 

 

References

Van Thielen T, van den Hauwe L, Van Goethem JW, Parizel PM. Imaging techniques and anatomy. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2015:chap 54.

 
  • Skeletal spine

    Skeletal spine - illustration

    The spine is divided into several sections. The cervical vertebrae make up the neck. The thoracic vertebrae comprise the chest section and have ribs attached. The lumbar vertebrae are the remaining vertebrae below the last thoracic bone and the top of the sacrum. The sacral vertebrae are caged within the bones of the pelvis, and the coccyx represents the terminal vertebrae or vestigial tail.

    Skeletal spine

    illustration

  • Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)

    Vertebra, thoracic (mid back) - illustration

    These are twelve vertebra of the mid back. The last vertebra (on the left side of the picture) attaches to the lumbar (lower) spine, and the top vertebra (on the right) attaches to the cervical (neck) section of the back. The vertebra are broader and stronger than the cervical bones. This allows them to absorb the added pressure applied to the mid back, but they remain a common sight of injury. The vertebra are numbered from one to twelve and labeled T1, T2, T3, et cetera, from the upper most bones to the lowest.

    Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)

    illustration

  • Vertebral column

    Vertebral column - illustration

    This is the spine and the sacrum with the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (lower back) vertebra. Notice how the appearance of the vertebra change as you look down the spine. The change in shape and size reflect the different functions of the neck, mid-back, and lower back.

    Vertebral column

    illustration

  • Intervertebral disk

    Intervertebral disk - illustration

    The vertebral column is made up of 26 bones that provide axial support to the trunk. The vertebral column provides protection to the spinal cord that runs through its central cavity. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disk. The disks are filled with a gelatinous substance, called the nucleus pulposus, which provides cushioning to the spinal column. The annulus fibrosus is a fibrocartilaginous ring that surrounds the nucleus pulposus, which keeps the nucleus pulposus in tact when forces are applied to the spinal column. The intervertebral disks allow the vertebral column to be flexible and act as shock absorbers during everyday activities such as walking, running and jumping.

    Intervertebral disk

    illustration

  • Anterior skeletal anatomy

    Anterior skeletal anatomy - illustration

    The skeleton is made up of 206 bones in the adult and contributes to the form and shape of the body. The skeleton has several important functions for the body. The bones of the skeleton provide support for the soft tissues. For example, the rib cage supports the thoracic wall. Most muscles of the body are attached to bones which act as levers to allow movement of body parts. The bones of the skeleton also serve as a reservoir for minerals, such as calcium and phosphate. Finally, most of the blood cell formation takes places within the marrow of certain bones.

    Anterior skeletal anatomy

    illustration

    • Skeletal spine

      Skeletal spine - illustration

      The spine is divided into several sections. The cervical vertebrae make up the neck. The thoracic vertebrae comprise the chest section and have ribs attached. The lumbar vertebrae are the remaining vertebrae below the last thoracic bone and the top of the sacrum. The sacral vertebrae are caged within the bones of the pelvis, and the coccyx represents the terminal vertebrae or vestigial tail.

      Skeletal spine

      illustration

    • Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)

      Vertebra, thoracic (mid back) - illustration

      These are twelve vertebra of the mid back. The last vertebra (on the left side of the picture) attaches to the lumbar (lower) spine, and the top vertebra (on the right) attaches to the cervical (neck) section of the back. The vertebra are broader and stronger than the cervical bones. This allows them to absorb the added pressure applied to the mid back, but they remain a common sight of injury. The vertebra are numbered from one to twelve and labeled T1, T2, T3, et cetera, from the upper most bones to the lowest.

      Vertebra, thoracic (mid back)

      illustration

    • Vertebral column

      Vertebral column - illustration

      This is the spine and the sacrum with the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (lower back) vertebra. Notice how the appearance of the vertebra change as you look down the spine. The change in shape and size reflect the different functions of the neck, mid-back, and lower back.

      Vertebral column

      illustration

    • Intervertebral disk

      Intervertebral disk - illustration

      The vertebral column is made up of 26 bones that provide axial support to the trunk. The vertebral column provides protection to the spinal cord that runs through its central cavity. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disk. The disks are filled with a gelatinous substance, called the nucleus pulposus, which provides cushioning to the spinal column. The annulus fibrosus is a fibrocartilaginous ring that surrounds the nucleus pulposus, which keeps the nucleus pulposus in tact when forces are applied to the spinal column. The intervertebral disks allow the vertebral column to be flexible and act as shock absorbers during everyday activities such as walking, running and jumping.

      Intervertebral disk

      illustration

    • Anterior skeletal anatomy

      Anterior skeletal anatomy - illustration

      The skeleton is made up of 206 bones in the adult and contributes to the form and shape of the body. The skeleton has several important functions for the body. The bones of the skeleton provide support for the soft tissues. For example, the rib cage supports the thoracic wall. Most muscles of the body are attached to bones which act as levers to allow movement of body parts. The bones of the skeleton also serve as a reservoir for minerals, such as calcium and phosphate. Finally, most of the blood cell formation takes places within the marrow of certain bones.

      Anterior skeletal anatomy

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

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          Tests for Thoracic spine x-ray

           

           

          Review Date: 8/14/2015

          Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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