The CAT scan is an X-ray test that is similar to both the MRI and a regular X-ray because it can show both bones and soft tissues. CAT scans are also able to product X-ray “slices” taken of the spine, allowing each section to be examined separately. The scan forms a set of cross-sectional images that can show disc problems and degeneration of bones, such as bone spur formation or facet hypertrophy (enlargement). CAT scan images are not as clear as either X-rays or an MRI. To make the soft tissues easier to see, the CAT scan is often combined with a myelogram.
Like an MRI, with a CAT scan you will lie on a table that slides into a scanner. The scanner is essentially an X-ray tube that rotates in a circle taking many pictures. The procedure takes 30-60 minutes.
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