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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Neck X-Ray

Neck X-Ray

Alternate Names : Cervical Spine X-Ray, C-Spine X-Ray, Cervical Spine Series

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

Neck x-rays involve a series of films used to diagnose abnormalities of the bones and soft tissues of the cervical spine.

Who is a candidate for the test?

This test may be performed on a person with these symptoms:

  • acute or chronic neck pain
  • severe head injury or neck injury
  • injury to other parts of the spinal column, chest wall, or pelvis
  • arthritis or other degenerative bone and joint problem
  • limited movement, numbness, or pain in the arms, hands, or fingers
  • loss of consciousness
  • How is the test performed?

    X-rays are energy in the form of electromagnetic waves that are produced by an x-ray machine. Tissues that lie in the path of the x-ray beam absorb or block x-rays to varying degrees. These tissue differences or densities affect the final image on the film. Bone blocks most of the beam and appears white. Soft tissue partially blocks the beam and appears gray. Fat blocks even less of the x-ray beam and appears as a darker shade of gray or black.

    An x-ray technologist takes the images of cervical spine. The technologist's goal is to get the best image using as little radiation as possible. The standard neck films require precise positioning and usually include the following:

  • a frontal view of the neck
  • a side or lateral view of the neck
  • an "open-mouth" view of the neck
  • The "open-mouth" view simply involves the person opening his or her mouth while the x-ray is taken. This special view is particularly useful in evaluating the uppermost part of the cervical spine. Other views are often needed, especially if portions of the cervical spine are not seen well or included on the standard views.

    These series of cervical spine images may be taken with the person standing, sitting upright, or lying flat. A neck x-ray can be performed on a person with a neck brace or stabilizing collar.

    If necessary, the x-ray beam penetration can be altered to better study soft tissue disorders of the neck, including:

  • inflamed tonsils, or tonsillitis
  • throat infection
  • enlarged cervical lymph nodes
  • foreign body in the upper esophagus, called the cervical esophagus or upper airway


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    Neck X-Ray: Preparation & Expectations

    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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