Imaging plays a crucial role in helping your spinal specialist comprehend the reason for back or neck pain. Dr. Albert relies on multiple different forms of high-tech imaging, including X-rays, MRI, and CT scans. Each form of imaging works in a specific manner to observe the parts of the spine that may be contributing to uncomfortable symptoms. In identifying the origin of pain, the doctor gains the insights necessary to develop the most appropriate and specific treatment plan. You can learn more about the various imaging tools offered by Dr. Todd J. Albert by giving our NYC office a call at 212-606-1004 today!
How Long Does an MRI typically Take?
An MRI can take 30 minutes to an hour without contrast dye. With contrast, the exam can take up to an hour and a half. Before beginning, the technologist prepares the patient for what they can expect during their scan and can answer last-minute questions.
How Long Does a CT Scan typically Take?
The CT scan procedure takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes. During the exam, patients are positioned on an exam table. Before beginning, the technologist will explain what to expect during the scan. If contrast dye is involved, an IV will be inserted into the arm. The infusion of contrast dye can cause a warming sensation and a metallic taste in the mouth. To obtain images, the technologist positions the relevant part of the body into the short, tube-shaped scanner. The patient must lie still while imaging is done.
How Should I Prepare for an MRI?
Hearing that you need to undergo an MRI can feel unsettling. It is perfectly normal to feel nervous about this imaging test or any other. First, we want patients to know that having an MRI is not nearly as frightening as they imagine. The process is completely painless. During an MRI, it is necessary to lie still on an exam table that moves through a tube-shaped machine. The amount of time each MRI takes may vary slightly. If you are claustrophobic and need an MRI, talk to your doctor ahead of time. Patients who suffer from claustrophobia or other anxiety conditions may be given medication before the beginning of their procedure to help them remain calm and comfortable.
When discussing the need for imaging, especially for MRI, the doctor will conduct a thorough medical history. It is imperative to alert the doctor of:
- Metal implants anywhere in the body
- Piercings not visible to the naked eye
- History of diabetes
- History of kidney problems
- Existing pacemaker
- An implanted drug infusion device
- Cochlear implants
- Past bullet or shrapnel wounds
Patients may be advised to avoid eating for four hours prior to their MRI exam and to leave jewelry at home. It is beneficial to wear comfortable clothing to the appointment.
How Should I Prepare for a CT Scan?
There are very few guidelines to help patients prepare for their CT scan. Generally, patients should continue taking all prescribed medications as directed. It is necessary to avoid eating for four hours prior to the exam. Patients may consume water and other clear liquids. Patients should not wear jewelry or bobby pins to their CT scans.
Who Should avoid Receiving X-Rays?
X-rays are known for radiation exposure. The amount of exposure that occurs during a round of x-rays has been studied for many years and has repeatedly been found to be very low. Therefore, x-rays are generally considered safe for the vast majority of patients, even children. Women who are pregnant should alert their doctor, especially if x-ray imaging is needed to observe the lower back. Though the risk to a growing fetus is very small, it is important to discuss all options for imaging when pregnant.
Are MRIs, X-Rays, and CT Scans Covered by Insurance?
Imaging tests that are deemed medically necessary are typically covered by health insurance. Patients are responsible for some out-of-pocket costs. Examples include deductibles, copays, or the percentage of fees not covered in their insurance plan. To understand the costs that may be incurred during your MRI, X-ray, or CT Scan, the best course of action is to contact your insurance provider directly. Many can guide the insured to coverage documents that can be copied or printed for future reference.
What Does a CT of the Spine Show?
CT imaging, computed tomography, is a form of diagnostic imaging that combines x-ray and computer technology. This enables the doctor to view axial (horizontal) images of a part of the body. The sections of images are often called "slices." A CT scan involves x-ray imaging but is more detailed and sophisticated, which is why it may be ideal for some spinal conditions.
During a spinal CT a special x-ray machine moves around the body in a circular fashion. It captures images as it moves and presents the data in the form of a two-dimensional image. Depending on the reason for the scan, it may include contrast. This means that a substance is injected into the area of study to make it easier to identify the suspected injury or abnormality.
A CT scan of the spine can show detailed information about the vertebrae and other bony structures that may be the source of pain and other symptoms.
What Does MRI of the Spine Show?
MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, is also a non-invasive, painless procedure that enables the doctor to view parts of your body that are experiencing symptoms. This type of imaging uses radio frequencies and a large magnet rather than ionizing radiation (present in x-rays and CT scans) to obtain detailed information about structures and organs.
During an MRI scan, you lie on an exam table. The table is moved into a tube-shaped machine in which a strong magnetic field is created around the body. This sophisticated test works by disrupting the nuclei in the atoms of your body, forcing them out of their natural alignment using radio waves and a magnetic field. It's when the nuclei realign that radio signals are sent out from them back to the machine, which translates the signals into a two-dimensional image.
The data obtained during MRI scans can help the doctor differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue. This makes magnetic resonance imaging ideal for a number of potential conditions that affect the spine, spinal cord, and also the brain. An MRI may detect:
- Venous malformations
- Multiple sclerosis
- Degenerative disease of the spine
- Disc degeneration or herniation
What is it Like to Have an MRI of the Spine?
MRI scans can feel intimidating. This is primarily because the scan involves lying still while the exam table is within a large tube. There is no pain during an MRI. The most challenging aspect of the test may be that you need to lie very still, as any movement can cause the images to look blurry. The MRI machine is also relatively noisy, making humming and thumping sounds as it works. Your technician may provide you with ear plugs or headphones to wear to minimize the noise. If you have a very difficult time remaining still due to nerves or a medical condition, you may recquest a mild sedative before your MRI to help you relax.
Call Today For Your Spinal Imaging Appointment In NYC
If you are dealing with acute or chronic back or neck pain and would like an accurate diagnosis for your symptoms, contact our NYC office at 212-606-1004. During a consultation with Dr. Albert, you can gain a great deal of insight into your general spinal health and what may be affecting your comfort and mobility. At your visit, you can learn about which forms of imaging may be beneficial to identify the source of pain.