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What does an MRI/CT/CBCT/X-Ray
scan of the cervical spine show?

What does an MRI/CT/CBCT/X-Ray scan of the cervical spine show?

What does an MRI/CT/CBCT/X-Ray scan of the cervical spine show?


Like many people we see in our north Brisbane chiropractor clinic, you have probably been referred for numerous tests including MRIs, CT scans, etc … but no one has ever told you what they show. I hope I may be able to clarify a few things here.

  • X-Ray - Uses low dose ionising radiation to see dense structures (e.g., bones) on 2D pictures
  • CT Scan - Uses high dose ionising radiation to see dense structure (e.g., bones) and also blood flow on 3D pictures. Note: CT scans are the types of tests that you don’t want to have too many of because of the higher incidence of cancer. By contrast, x-rays use much lower radiation and are pretty darn safe.
  • MRI Scan - Uses magnets - no ionising radiation at all! - to see soft tissues (e.g., muscles, nerves, organs) in 3D. The most common MRIs in Australia are still the big, noisy tubes.

One of the major limitations with CTs and MRIs is that they are taken lying down. As a result, we cannot see the necessary biomechanics relationships of the bones in your neck. It is the reason that we take out images at our North Lakes chiropractic office upright.

Now let me share with you a few additional scans that are available when you see a Blair upper cervical doctor, like with what we use in our North Lakes chiropractor practice.

  • Precision 3D X-Rays - The same as general x-ray, but with specialised views that are customised for your own bone structure to be able to see things in 3D with way less radiation that a convention CT scan. These are the types of views that we take at Atlas Health in North Lakes.
  • CBCT - aka Cone Beam CT. A CBCT is nothing like a conventional CT scanner, but is s device similar to a dental scan that takes a 3D image of your face and upper neck using only the same amount of ionising radiation with standard x-rays.

Due to legislation in Queensland, Brisbane chiropractors are not permitted to take CBCT images. And unfortunately, very few medical imaging centres have CBCT units where we could refer you. This is lagging significantly behind other places in the world including New Zealand, the USA, Europe and even Brazil where CBCT technology is on the rise.

It is part of the reason that we have our own 3D x-ray uni in our North Lakes office: to save you time and money, and to make sure that we get the best possible images to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


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