Investigating spinal problems

Back pain and neck pain are common complaints and both have a wide variety of causes. Systematic investigation needs to be done to use different types of imaging to visualise any fractures, tears or other abnormalities.

X-rays

X-ray facilities at The London Clinic allow for diagnostic X-rays for spinal conditions and also for follow-up X-rays to monitor the success of surgical treatment. Your consultant will book the facilities for you and order any special equipment depending on whether you need to be sitting, standing or lying down for X-ray imaging. 

CT scans

CT scans provide an accurate picture of the bones in the spine, and can be used to detect fractures, disc problems, bone erosion and if bone has been destroyed by the growth of a tumour.

MRI scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a very good technique for visualising the soft tissue as well as the bones of the spine. At The London Clinic we have the latest MRI scanners available on-site and bookings for investigations can usually be made very quickly.

Spinal problems are often diagnosed by having an MRI scan in a position that does not involve lying flat in the scanner. The exact position will depend on your spine and the assessment by your consultant.

Discography

Discography uses modified X-rays to take detailed images of the verterbral discs, which can help diagnosed a range of disc problems.

Bone scans

We use 2 different bone scanning techniques to investigate if there is any inflammatory damage in the joints or the bones themselves, and also to measure bone density:

  • Inflammatory damage is assessed using a scan involving different isotopes, most often Technetium99, a radioactive isotope that is injected into a vein before the scan. Imaging will then reveal any areas of active inflammation, and it can also detect the presence of bone tumours. Radioactive isotope scanning can highlight inflammation within the vertebral joints in the spine and can also show how well a bone fracture is healing.
  • A dexa bone densitometry scanner can assess whether osteoporosis is present, or whether the bones are losing density because of another underlying problem. Women are prone to developing osteoporosis after the menopause and this can lead to various spinal abnormalities and problems. We need to check all patients who need a spinal fusion as osteoporosis can reduce the chances of a successful outcome.