Exams and Tests

CT Scan (Computed Tomography) and CAT Scan (Computed Axial Tomography)

CT scans, known as CAT scans or computed tomography, are imaging tests performed to evaluate the cause of spinal disorders and back pain. CT imaging involves low-intensity x-rays to create detailed pictures of the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) or lumbar (low back) spine.

MRI Animation

MRI video animation demonstrates magnetic resonance imaging, a spinal diagnostic test that produces detailed images of the neck and back.

Discography Animation

Discography video animation shows how a discogram may determine if a spinal disc is the cause your back pain and leg pain.

Bone Scan

Bone scans can detect changes in your bones before any structural changes can be seen.

X-Rays (Radiographs)

X-ray technology is one of the fundamental types of diagnostic imaging used by different spine specialists.

Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) Tests

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) are electrodiagnostic tests that measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerves. EMG/NCV tests help evaluate back pain, neck pain, unexplained spine symptoms, numbness, tingling sensations, muscle cramping, or weakness in the arms or legs.

Myelography (Myelogram)

Myelography is a spinal imaging test that produces an image called a myelogram that is useful to evaluate and diagnose spinal myelopathy or spinal cord compression.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a powerful diagnostic tool that produces highly detailed images of the spine and other parts of your body.

Bone Densitometry Exam DEXA

A bone densitometry exam, also known as a bone density test, bone mineral density test, or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) diagnose osteoporosis or osteopenia, and assess your risk for fracture.

3 Ways to Protect Yourself from Radiation from Spinal Imaging

Discussing risks and benefits with your doctor shouldn’t only be about treatment—the conversation is also important during the diagnostic process.

Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbosacral Low Dose Intrathecal Contrast Enhanced CAT Scan

Similar to a myelogram, contrast dye is injected into the low back to enhance images of the spinal canal and nerve roots.

Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar Discography Information

Discography confirms or denies the disc(s) as a pain source. Learn how the procedure is performed and its importance in planning spine surgery.

Cervical (Neck) Implants used in Spine Surgery

Cervical implants are devices surgeons use to decompress (remove pressure from nerves) and to stabilize the neck. These procedures are performed to reduce neck pain.

Exams and Tests Center

In the SpineUniverse Exams and Tests Center, learn the difference between x-ray and MRI—and how they differ from a CT scan.

Bone Grafts: New Developments

The use of BMP-2 in spinal fusions will eliminate the need for taking the patient's own bone.

Electrodiagnostic Tools

Electrodiagnostic studies should be considered an extension of the history and physical examination and not a substitute for a detailed neurologic and musculoskeletal examination.

MRI vs. Myelogram

There are several advantages to having a myelogram to help diagnose your back pain, in addition to an MRI scan. Article describes both the benefits and drawbacks of myelograms.

Diagnostic Tools: X-Ray, Bone Scan, MRI, CT Scan

Spine specialists use x-rays, bone scans, MR imaging, and CT scans to confirm a diagnosis.

Nuclear Imaging: PET and SPECT Scans

As part of the family of nuclear imaging techniques, PET and SPECT scans are performed to detect abnormal metabolic activity, which could lead to structural changes (in the vertebrae, for example).


A SPECT scan is an imaging technique that measures the emission of photons of a given energy from radioactive tracers introduced into the body.

Diagnostic Tests: X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI

X-ray, CT Scan and MRI are types of tests used to help diagnose certain spinal disorders. Learn about these and other diagnostic tests.

Neurology Basics: Neurological Exams

Evaluating a patient’s neurological function is important to diagnosing and treating spinal problems.

X-Rays Animation

X-ray video animation explains this first-line imaging study used to help diagnose the cause of back pain or neck pain.

Spinal Tests and Diagnosis Animation

Spinal x-rays, CT and MRI scans are imaging tests your spine doctor may order to confirm your diagnosis, the cause of your neck or back pain are explained in the video animation.

Electrodiagnostics Animation

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) are types of electrodiagnostic tests explained in the video animation. Both EMG and NCV (sometimes called a nerve conduction study, NCS) may be performed to help diagnose the cause of back and/or neck pain.

Myelography Animation

Myelography is a test that produces a myelogram. The results can help diagnose a problem affecting your spine’s nerves or the spinal cord, such as myelopathy.

Patient Opinions About Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) help patients partner with their doctors. Read the results of a study that polled patients’ opinions about this resource.

Posterior Cervical Implants used in Spine Survery

Cervical implants, such as plates, rods and screws, are different types of spinal instrumentation spine surgeons may use during surgery to stabilize the neck and reduce pain.

Novel Radiation-Free Assessment of Scoliosis and the Cobb Angle

The Ortelius800® is a non-invasive radiation-free 3-D imaging system for the diagnosis and monitoring of scoliosis and other spinal deformities.

Lumbar (Low Back) Dynamic Stabilization - A Patient's Guide

Dynamic stabilization uses flexible materials to stabilize the spine if affected by degenerative changes.

Ultrasonography is Ultrasound Imaging Used to Help Diagnose Spinal Disorders

Ultrasonography, also called sonography or medical ultrasound, is a diagnostic test performed to help diagnosis the cause of neck or back pain and spine disorders.

Neurological Exams: Sensory Nerves and Deep Tendon Reflexes

Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain are abnormal feelings that may be felt in the back and/or extremities.

Diagnosing Back or Neck Pain: The Physical Examination

Diagnosing your back or neck pain involves a physical examination, review of your symptoms, medical history, neurological assessment, and movement tests.

Neurological Exams for Neck and Back Pain: Nerve Deficits

A spine specialist may order specific neurological studies. These tests measure nerve performance.

What Patients Want to Know Before Having an Imaging Exam

X-rays and imaging tests for back pain were included in a study of what patients want to know about their procedure, radiation exposure, and how they prefer to receive information.

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Measurement

Learn more about a simple test to see if you are at risk of a spinal fracture.


Fluoroscopy is a special type of x-ray used to project live images onto a monitor. Find out how this diagnostic tool can be used.

The Cage

The cage is used primarily in the lumbar spine as a disc replacement spacer and is used in pairs - inserted one on the right side of the disc space and the other on the left to give good lateral support.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test is the gold standard in imaging because of its ability to reveal the pathology of discs, nerves, and other soft spinal tissues in splendid detail.

Discography (Discogram)

Provocative Discography is a form of discography that replicates the patient's 'discogenic' pain.

Diagnostic Tests: Bone Density, Nerve Function, Discography, Lab Tests

A bone scan, bone density scan, nerve function tests and basic lab work can help your doctor confirm the diagnosis.

Blood Tests and Other Laboratory Tests

Laboratory tests often include blood work from which many aspects of the patient's physical health can be determined.

Implanting Expanding Cages to Reconstruct the Spine: Patient Cases

Two cases studies, complete with pre- and postoperative x-rays, demonstrate how expandable vertebral cages are used in spinal reconstruction.

Vertebral Body Reconstruction Using Expandable Cages

Vertebral body reconstruction following corpectomy or vertebrectomy present the surgeon with a technical challenge. Learn about expandable cages and how spine surgeons use these devices in spinal reconstruction.

EMG's and Nerve Conduction Tests

These tests can establish if a nerve is pinched, and give a numeric value to how severely it is pinched and often where it is pinched.

Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) Testing

NCV and EMG tests are performed to determine if symptoms (e.g. sciatica, weakness) are caused by a nerve or muscle disorder.

FRAX® Tool Helps Determine Who’s at Risk for Bone Fractures

FRAX® is a fracture risk assessment tool that calculates a person’s absolute fracture risk or estimates of the chance of breaking a bone (eg, spine) within 10 years.

Physical Exam

The physical exam is one way the doctor will try to assess your pain and condition.

Gene Therapy: On the Cutting-Edge

Gene therapy is a cutting-edge technique that has moved from theoretical fantasy into a potential medical therapy.

Myelography, Discography and Selective Neural Blockade

Myelography, discography or selective neural blockade are tests that may be performed to diagnose the cause of acute low back pain.

Low Back Pain Relief and Pneumatic Vest Use

A pneumatic vest has similar properties to traditional spinal braces but with an additional function. The vest is designed to use inflatable lifters to unload weight off from the lumbar spine.

Image-Guided Surgery: Space Age Technology Enters the Operating Room

Image-guided surgery enables spine surgeons to see and navigate through the patient's anatomy three-dimensionally (3D) in real time before and during surgery.

Lumbar (Low Back) Surgical Implants

Implants are devices (such as cages, rods, screws) that, when combined with bone graft, stabilize the low back.

Cervical and Thoracic Spinal Disorders: New Surgical Technique

In the past, spine surgeons had difficulty placing screws into the proper positions in the vertebrae and still attaching the plate or rod. The VERTEX? Reconstruction System allows screws to be placed exactly where they need to go safely.

Robotics and Computers in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Meet Aesop and Hermes and learn how the use of robotics and computers in minimally invasive spine surgery has resulted in more accurate surgical procedures, shortened operative time, and fewer complications.

Image-Guided Spinal Surgery

IGS illustrates how advancements in instrumentation, computer technology, and imaging have been developed to help surgeons perform complex spinal reconstructions safer and faster.

The Present Role of Titanium Cage Fusions In Spine Care

Learn all about the role of titanium cage fusions in patients with spinal conditions that have possibly had a disc removed.


The use of rhBMP-2 in anterior lumbar interbody fusion procedures eliminates the complications of iliac crest bone harvesting.

Dynamic Stabilization's Use in Treating Low Back (Lumbar) Disorders

A discussion about when dynamic stabilization is indicated and the types of devices.

Update: Spinal Implant Breakthrough Stabilizes Spine

One of the newest and most popular spinal instrumentation systems used by surgeons is TSRH-3D?. The TSRH-3D? pedicle screw has a remarkable "headless" design and has proven to be one of the smallest yet strongest spinal implants available today.

Lumbar (Low Back) Implants Stabilize the Spine

New lumbar (low back) spinal implants, such as artificial discs, are designed to help preserve motion.

Spinal Instrumentation

Many implants used in spinal instrumentation are made from medical grade stainless steel, Titanium, or Titanium-alloy. Implants made from Titanium are highly resistant to corrosion and fatigue and are MRI compatible.

Multi Axial Screws Help Make Instrumentation Surgery Easier

Specially designed screws facilitate lining up the rods with the pedicle screws. Easier placement means less time spent in surgery for the patient, more successful outcomes, and less recovery time.

New Anterior Cervical Plate Makes Headlines

Cervical plates have been used for more than 20 years to increase neck stability following single and multi-level cervical surgery. Now a new cervical plate has been developed, the thinnest one yet. Learn more about this leading technology.

Electromyography (EMG)

An EMG measures muscle response to nerve stimulation and evaluates electrical activity within selected muscle fibers. The test can help your doctor differentiate between a muscle and nerve disorder.


Clinical trial information for the Prodisc Artificial Disc.

Segmental Spinal Stabilization using a Low-Profile Crosslinking Device

The X10 CROSSLINK® Plate Spinal System is a low-profile spinal instrumentation system spine surgeons are using to segmentally stabilize spinal instability and deformity.

Spine Cages Help to Restore Correct Spinal Alignment

Cages are also called 'interbody cages', which refers to where cages are implanted (between two vertebrae). Cages are used to restore lost disc height disc and to relieve pressure on nerve roots.

Lumbar Cage Fusions

By utilizing metallic or carbon fiber fusion cages, structural support is obtained from the cage while healing goes on both through the cage and around the cage with bone graft or bone substitutes.

New Device for Cervical Spine Surgery

The BAK/C cervical interbody device is cylindrical and made of titanium alloy. As the device is implanted between two vertebrae, it collects bone material necessary for fusion. Therefore an autograft procedure or allograft is not always needed.

A Patients' Guide to Video-assisted Thoracoscopic Spinal Surgery (VATS)

One of the most difficult jobs of a spine surgeon is deciding when a surgical intervention is appropriate. There are five basic reasons to offer surgical treatment to patients with spinal disorders and they are discussed here.

FluoroNav: Virtual Fluoroscopy System

FluoroNav is a surgical guidance system that combines a conventional C-arm fluoroscope with a surgical computer. By harnessing the power of the computer with the fluoroscope, FluoroNav allows the surgeon to see many views of the spine.

Anterior Cervical Fixation: Plating

Anterior cervical plating enhances arthodesis (fusion) after discectomy.

Anterior Cervical Spine Fixation: Material Technologies

The most commonly available polymer is polyetheretherketone (PEEK). The PEEK graft replacements are stronger than bone but they are softer and less likely to cause the adjacent bone to collapse.