Neck x-ray

Definition

A neck x-ray is an imaging test to look at cervical vertebrae. These are the 7 bones of the spine in the neck.

Alternative Names

X-ray - neck; Cervical spine x-ray; Lateral neck x-ray

How the Test is Performed

This test is done in a hospital radiology department. It may also be done in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technologist.

You will lie on the x-ray table.

You will be asked to change positions so that more images can be taken. Usually 2, or up to 7 different images may be needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the provider if you are or think you may be pregnant. Also tell your provider if you have had surgery or have implants around your neck, jaw, or mouth.

Remove all jewelry.

How the Test will Feel

When the x-rays are taken, there is no discomfort. If the x-rays are done to check for injury, there may be discomfort as your neck is being positioned. Care will be taken to prevent further injury.

Why the Test is Performed

The x-ray is used to evaluate neck injuries and numbness, pain, or weakness that does not go away. A neck x-ray can also be used to help see if air passages are blocked by swelling in the neck or something stuck in the airway.

Other tests, such as MRI, may be used to look for disk or nerve problems.

What Abnormal Results Mean

A neck x-ray can detect:

Risks

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored so that the lowest amount of radiation is used to produce the image.

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

References

Roosevelt GE. Acute inflammatory upper airway obstruction (croup, epiglottitis, laryngitis, and bacterial tracheitis). In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 385.

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. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone: 2015:chap 54.


Review Date: 9/7/2017
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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