CT is an abbreviation of the diagnostic test known as “computed tomography.” Sometimes it is also called a “CAT” scan. CT produces an image of a “slice” through a body part by taking a large series of low-dose x-rays.
A computer then formats this information as a series of slices. If enough slices are obtained, the information can be reformatted as a three-dimensional image or as slices from different angles. CT is very good for imaging bone, but also gives a good view of most soft tissues. Often, CT is performed immediately after other diagnostic tests such as myelography and discography.
A neck or back CT is used to evaluate many types of spinal conditions. For trauma, a neck or back CT scan may be ordered immediately. Typically, though, a neck or back CT is not needed unless pain persists despite treatment with medication and physical therapy.