COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information

Your health and safety are our top priorities. Learn more about our COVID-19 evaluation and testing and our commitment to providing great care while maintaining the safest environment possible.

Health Library

Neck x-ray
     
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Neck x-ray

X-ray - neck; Cervical spine x-ray; Lateral neck x-ray

 

A neck x-ray is an imaging test to look at cervical vertebrae. These are the 7 bones of the spine in the neck.

How the Test is Performed

 

This test is done in a hospital radiology department. It may also be done in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technologist.

You will lie on the x-ray table.

You will be asked to change positions so that more images can be taken. Usually 2, or up to 7 different images may be needed.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

Tell the provider if you are or think you may be pregnant. Also tell your provider if you have had surgery or have implants around your neck, jaw, or mouth.

Remove all jewelry.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

When the x-rays are taken, there is no discomfort. If the x-rays are done to check for injury, there may be discomfort as your neck is being positioned. Care will be taken to prevent further injury.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

The x-ray is used to evaluate neck injuries and numbness, pain, or weakness that does not go away. A neck x-ray can also be used to help see if air passages are blocked by swelling in the neck or something stuck in the airway.

Other tests, such as MRI, may be used to look for disk or nerve problems.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

A neck x-ray can detect:

  • Bone joint that is out of position (dislocation)
  • Breathing in a foreign object
  • Broken bone (fracture)
  • Disk problems (disks are the cushion-like tissue that separate the vertebrae)
  • Extra bone growths (bone spurs) on the neck bones (for example, due to osteoarthritis)
  • Infection that causes swelling of the vocal cords (croup)
  • Inflammation of the tissue that covers the windpipe (epiglottitis)
  • Problem with the curve of the upper spine, such as kyphosis
  • Thinning of the bone (osteoporosis)
  • Wearing away of the neck vertebrae or cartilage
  • Abnormal development in the spine of a child

 

Risks

 

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored so that the lowest amount of radiation is used to produce the image.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

 

 

References

Claudius I, Newton K. Neck. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 37.

Truong MT, Messner AH. Evaluation and management of the pediatric airway. In: Lesperance MM, Flint PW, eds. Cummings Pediatric Otolaryngology. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 23.

Van Thielen T, van den Hauwe L, Van Goethem JW, Parizel PM. Imaging techniques and anatomy. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone: 2015:chap 54.

BACK TO TOPText only

 
  • Skeletal spine

    Skeletal spine

    illustration

  • Vertebra, cervical (neck)

    Vertebra, cervical (neck)

    illustration

  • Cervical vertebrae

    Cervical vertebrae

    illustration

    • Skeletal spine

      Skeletal spine

      illustration

    • Vertebra, cervical (neck)

      Vertebra, cervical (neck)

      illustration

    • Cervical vertebrae

      Cervical vertebrae

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Neck x-ray

           
           

          Review Date: 7/7/2019

          Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com