Neck x-ray

Definition

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

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 two, or up to seven different images may be needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the health care provider if you are or think you may be pregnant. 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.


Review Date: 8/26/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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