Cervical spine X-ray

Alternative names
X-ray - neck; Neck X-ray

The neck X-ray involves the 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae that are separated by flat pads of cartilage which cushion the vertebrae.

How the test is performed
The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider’s office by an X-ray technician. You will be asked to lie on the X-ray table and assume various positions. If the X-ray is to determine injury, care will be taken to prevent further injury. The X-ray machine will be positioned over the neck area. You may be asked to stop breathing while the picture is taken so that the picture will not be blurry. Usually three to seven different views are needed.

How to prepare for the test
Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.

For infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age and experience. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

  • infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
There is no discomfort but the table may be cold.

Why the test is performed
The X-ray is used to evaluate neck injuries and persistent numbness, pain, or weakness.

What abnormal results mean
The test will detect abnormalities such as fractures, dislocations, thinning of the bone (osteoporosis), and deformities in the curvature of the spine. The test may also detect bone spurs, disc problems, and degeneration of the vertebrae.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • cervical spondylosis  
  • croup syndrome  
  • epiglottitis

What the risks are
There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the X-ray.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.