Thoracic spine x-ray is an radiography examination shown in case of suspected fractures of the thoracic vertebrae, degenerative-dystrophic processes, malformations and neoplasia of this part of the spinal column. The standard study is performed in two projections (straight and lateral). In some cases, X-rays are additionally prescribed in an oblique projection. X-ray in a direct projection is done in a supine position, to perform radiographs in a lateral projection, the patient is asked to lie on his side. To carry out targeted x-ray, the tube of the X-ray machine is directed at an angle to the torso.
The thoracic spine has the greatest length and consists of 12 vertebrae, which determines the variability of the technique taking into account the specific pathology. Depending on the level and nature of the lesion , the following x-ray options are possible:
- A direct overview shot of the entire thoracic spine.
- A direct snapshot of the upper thoracic vertebrae.
- A direct snapshot of the lower thoracic vertebrae.
Targeted radiographs of the upper or lower thoracic vertebrae in traumatology and orthopedics are prescribed for severe kyphosis, since in this case the vertebral bodies are projected onto each other, making it difficult to diagnose. In addition, sometimes the lower thoracic vertebrae on the overview radiograph are overlapped by the shadows of the abdominal organs. Before the examination, the patient is laid on his back. For a survey image, the tube of the X-ray machine is directed perpendicular to the patient’s body, for sighting radiographs, it is rotated at an angle to the trunk.
If a lesion of the middle and lower thoracic vertebrae is suspected, an overview thoracic spine x-ray is prescribed. The study is carried out in the patient’s position lying on his side. A gentle x-ray option is possible (in this case, the patient is lying on his back). The four upper thoracic vertebrae overlap with the shadows of the shoulder girdle bones during the survey x-ray, therefore, a sighting image is performed to study them. The study is carried out in the patient’s standing or lying on his side.
Often, patients to whom the doctor prescribes such a procedure are interested in what a thoracic spine x-ray shows. It is worth knowing that according to the results of the study, it will be possible to identify:
- traumatic injuries – cracks, dislocations, fractures, etc.;
- the presence of osteochondrosis and arthrosis as its component;
- the severity of scoliosis and its presence in general, the severity is determined by the angle of curvature;
- the presence of infectious diseases, for example tuberculosis of bone tissue;
- neoplasms, metastases from the breast, genitals, lungs and kidneys;
- the presence of osteoporosis (this is a decrease in bone density, which significantly increases the risk of fracture, even with a slight injury);
- systemic diseases of the joints, for example, Bekhterev’s disease, which is characterized by limited mobility of the spine and ossification of the ligaments.
Due to this informative nature, X-rays are used everywhere in medical institutions. The procedure itself takes very little time, and as a result, a picture will be obtained on which pathologies will be visible.
There are no special procedures for preparing for an thoracic spine x-ray. All the patient needs to do is come to the doctor’s office and take off all metal jewelry, accessories, and gadgets. Otherwise, they will negatively affect the quality of the image.
Interpretation of results
Following the results of the thoracic spine x-ray in two projections, the doctor will decipher the results of the procedure. During the assessment of the condition of the spinal column, the radiologist pays attention to:
- the integrity of all bone tissues, the presence of dislocations, possible fractures;
- condition of bone surfaces;
- in what condition are the vertebrae – is there a rarefaction or compaction of the bone substance;
- in what condition are the articular cracks.
A person without the appropriate education will not be able to decipher due to the specifics of the work.
If, according to the results of the thoracic spine x-ray, no pathologies have been revealed, the conclusion will indicate that the bones of the spinal column correspond to the norm in number, there are no changes in their appearance, the dimensions are within the norm, and there are no curvatures. The doctor will also indicate that there are no fractures of the vertebrae, dislocations and foreign objects, and the soft tissues around the vertebrae do not look affected.
It will not be possible to find out how to do an X-ray procedure of the thoracic or cervical spine for women who are at any stage of pregnancy. X-rays, even in small doses, can have an extremely detrimental effect on the fetus. In such a situation, an X-ray can be done only if there is a threat to a woman’s life, and then the doctor will assess the possibility of carrying out the procedure in the second trimeter – this time is considered the safest for X-ray examinations, since all the baby’s organs have already formed.
A contraindication is also the insufficient age of the patient – they do not prescribe an X-ray until the age of 15. However, in this case, the decision can be made by the attending physician, if he believes that the benefits of the procedure are much higher than the likely risks, and there are no other diagnostic options available or they are ineffective, he will prescribe this study.