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Lumbosacral spine x-ray

Definition

A lumbosacral spine x-ray is a picture of the small bones (vertebrae) in the lower part of the spine (the lumbar region) and the sacrum, the area that connects the spine to the pelvis.

Alternative Names

X-ray - lumbosacral spine; X-ray - lower spine

How the test is performed

The test is done in a hospital radiology department or your health care provider's office by an x-ray technician. You will be asked to lie on the x-ray table in different positions. If the x-ray is being done to diagnose an injury, care will be taken to prevent further injury.

The x-ray machine will be placed over the lower part of your spine. You will be asked to hold your breath as the picture is taken so that the image will not be blurry. Usually three to five pictures are taken.

How to prepare for the test

Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.

How the test will feel

There is generally no discomfort associated with an x-ray, although the table may be cold.

Why the test is performed

Lumbosacral spine x-ray helps evaluate back injuries and persistent numbness, low back pain, or weakness.

What abnormal results mean

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 x-rays.

Special considerations

There are a number of back problems that an x-ray will not detect because they involve the muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues. A lumbosacral spine CT or lumbosacral spine MRI are better options for soft tissue disorders.

References

Mettler FA. Skeletal system. In: Mettler FA, ed. Essentials of Radiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2005:chap 8.

Review Date: 2/22/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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