When an accident has occurred that may leave an individual with a spinal cord injury at the hospital emergency room the doctor will used several methods to determine if the patient has suffered damage. The medical professional will examine the patient, test for sensory function and movement, along with asking questions about the incident. In the event that the injured person shows signs of not being fully awake, complains of neck pain, shows signs of a neurological injury or there are signs of weakness emergency diagnostic testing may be ordered. In this type of case to determine the extent of a possible traumatic spinal cord injury the tests may include:
- X-Rays: In possible spinal cord injury ordering x-rays is one of the common tests and may show any spinal vertebral issues, fractures, degenerative changes or tumors.
- CT Scan: This is a computerized tomography (CT) scan that has the ability to show more than x-rays. This testing will show any abnormalities of the spine, since it is a computerized method of cross sectional images that can define bones, disks and other problems.
- MRI: This is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can show herniated disks, blood clots and other issues that may not be seen in an x-ray or CT scan. This is done with a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce computer generated images useful in many cases.
After emergency care treatment your physician or specialist may order neurological examination to determine the complete or incomplete spinal cord injury once any swelling subsides. The neurological examination will include testing of muscle strength, sensitivity to light and a pinprick test to diagnose the completeness of the injury.