X-ray of the Cervical Spine

X-ray of the Cervical Spine

Radiographic Evaluation of the Cervical Region


Medical students should be well-versed in the essentials of interpreting cervical X-rays. Here’s a concise guide: Indications:

  • Trauma: Assess for fractures, dislocations, or soft tissue injuries after neck trauma.
  • Degenerative Conditions: Investigate cervical spondylosis or disc pathologies.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Evaluate for infections or inflammatory disorders.



  • Pregnancy: Minimize exposure, particularly during the first trimester.
  • Unnecessary Exposure: When clinical assessment alone is sufficient for diagnosis.
  • Advanced Imaging Preferred: Cases requiring detailed assessment, where CT or MRI is more suitable.


  • Alignment: Assess for normal alignment or any subluxations.
  • Fractures: Identify fractures in the cervical vertebrae.
  • Disc Spaces: Evaluate for disc height and potential herniations.
  • Soft Tissue: Look for swelling or air in soft tissues.
  • Joint Spaces: Examine for any abnormalities in the facet joints.


Potential Findings:

  • Fractures: Various types, including compression fractures or fractures of the odontoid process.
  • Dislocations: Subluxations or complete dislocations of cervical vertebrae.
  • Degenerative Changes: Disc space narrowing, osteophyte formation.
  • Soft Tissue Abnormalities: Hematomas, swelling, or air in the soft tissues.


Actions to Be Taken:

  • Consult Radiologist: Seek expert opinion for complex cases.
  • Clinical Correlation: Correlate findings with the patient’s clinical history and physical examination.
  • Further Imaging: If X-ray is inconclusive or more detail is needed, consider CT or MRI.
  • Timely Reporting: Communicate findings promptly for appropriate patient management.
  • Consider Patient Factors: Age, comorbidities, and clinical presentation influence the approach.


Medical students should grasp the fundamentals of cervical X-ray interpretation, understanding its role in diagnosing traumatic and degenerative conditions. Collaboration with radiologists and clinicians is crucial for comprehensive patient care.

Verified by Dr. Petya Stefanova