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X-ray examination of the head and spine

X-ray examinations are among the most commonly used imaging procedures. During the examination doctors use X-rays to "scan" organs and body parts and to make pathological changes visible.

Overview

At the Department of Neuroradiology, we use X-rays to examine the head and spine. We apply the technique in conditions such as dental injuries, jaw tumors, cleft palate and spinal injuries. The X-ray images show if the head and neck region sustained injuries, or if there are bone fractures or malignant disease. X-ray imaging can also visualize diseases of the paranasal sinuses, such as suppurations or malformations. Another application is to examine teeth, e.g. to assess tooth positions, tooth development (such as wisdom teeth) or root inflammation. Additionally, it can be used to assess the natural openings in the skulls (fontanelles) of infants.

An X-ray examination provides quick results and is painless. It is especially suitable for imaging injuries and diseases of solid tissue such as bone. However, because of the radiation exposure, it is always important to weigh the procedure’s benefits against its risks.

Our special examinations

In addition to X-ray examinations of the head and spine, we perform the following special examination:

  • Orthopantomography of the jaw

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • During an X-ray examination, numerous diseases, injuries and changes in organs and tissues can be discovered and assessed.
  • Dense or solid tissues such as bones are more visible in X-rays than in other methods.
  • X-ray examinations are pain-free.
  • The procedure provides quick results and is available almost everywhere.
  • During simple X-ray procedures (for example, in the case of a broken leg), the radiation exposure is relatively low.
  • For modern (digital) devices lower radiation intensities are sufficient.

Disadvantages

  • Frequent X-rays can damage cells and genetic material (DNA), which can lead to an increased risk for cancer in the long term. With each X-ray examination the body’s radioation burden increases. Moreover, it is unclear above which level the radiation becomes harmful.
  • Unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to radiation since their organs are still developing. Therefore, X-ray examinations during pregnancy are only permitted in special cases. Other imaging methods such as ultrasound (sonography) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used as alternatives.

Conclusion

Always discuss with your doctor whether an X-ray examination is necessary and useful. When used appropriately, the benefits often outweigh the potential risks. Additionally, ask your doctor for an X-ray passport which lists each examination, its date, and the body part that was examined. This helps avoid unnecessary X-ray examinations and additional radiation exposure.

Why choose the USZ?

Many years of expertise

Our clinic is an internationally renowned institution in the field of image-guided diagnostics and minimally invasive treatment. We examine and treat diseases of the brain, the spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system and their associated organs (eyes, auditory, vestibular, etc.), as well as adjacent structures of the head, neck and spine.

Partner network

At the Department of Neuroradiology, we use the latest methods, equipment and imaging techniques. Additionally, we convene with experts in neurosurgery and neurology to develop an individual therapy concept for each case. To guarantee optimal treatment selection and patient care our experienced neuroradiology interventionists further collaborate with experts from other clinics as well as with outstanding nursing and rehabilitation specialists before, during and after the intervention.

Course of treatment

We usually conduct the examination in a designated X-ray room. The body part which will be examined should not be covered. You must also remove any metal objects such as jewelry or watches, as they can interfere with the image. Body parts that are particularly sensitive to radiation are protected with a lead apron or a shield.

Depending on which body part we will examine, you will either stand, sit or lie between the radiation-emitting x-ray tube and the x-ray film. Sometimes, small plates with markings are placed next to you or on your body. These provide information about the radiation direction and about the x-rayed body part in the resulting image. Usually, a precise diagnosis requires several X-ray images which were taken at different angles. Therefore, you may have to assume different positions during the examination.

The actual X-ray examination takes only a few seconds. It is important that you do not move during this time. You may also have to hold your breath briefly since the X-ray image may otherwise be blurred. After the examination, the doctor will analyze at the images and discuss them with you.

Preparation remove jewelry and piercings
Anesthesia none
Duration of examination a fed minutes

For patients

As a patient, you cannot register directly for a consultation. Please get referred by your primary care physician or specialist. If you have any questions, please contact the scheduling office.

Tel. +41 43 254 41 20

For referring physicians

Refer your patient for an X-ray appointment through the online form or through an email to the scheduling office.

Tel. +41 43 254 41 20