Other Imaging

Chiropractors utilize a wide variety of Imaging modalities with pateints. Let's talk about a few of the options: 

1) MRI: The "Magnetic Reasonance Imaging" is a frequently used modality that came into wide use in the 1980's. Singularly unique in its application, it has, to date, no known side effects. Basically, the MRI works as follows: the patient is slid inside a gantry or in some cases a very "open" imaging device chassis. There are magnets surrounding the device that when turned on, created 60,000 times more magnetic pull than the earth itself. Consequently, the molecules in the human body stop their rotation. An FM radio signal is flashed through the magnetic field thus re-arranging the spin on the molecules of the body and creating energy that is given off and picked up by sensors surrounding the patient. Absolutely remarkable technology and very safe. The MRI can image anything in the body including bones but it slightly better at imaging soft tissue structures such as the spinal cord, the brain, organs and nerve roots.

An MRI machine.


Graphic of a patient inside the MRI gantry. Magnets and sensors are in orange and green.


2) CT SCAN: "Computerized Tomography" used to be called the "CAT" scan. In the original CAT scan, a standard X-Ray tube was aligned around an AXIAL plane of the human body and then that tube was rotated along the same plane for numerous X-Ray images that were assembled in the software of the computer and printed as a 3-D picture. Over the years, the AXIAL aspect of CAT scans was done away with. Now, the X-Ray tube can be vectored in any plane, any direction, at any speed. This then obviates the term AXIAL and thus, the CAT scan became the CT scan. Similarly to the MRI, the patient is slid into a gantry and the scanning starts. Despite its use of old fashioned X-Rays, the CT scan still can produce remarkable images and is slightly more effective and visual with bones than the MRI.


CT scanner: Note the general cosmetic similarity to the MRI unit. This particular machine is an "open" machine to avoid claustrophobic patients. MRIs also have "open" units.

3) PET SCAN: The Positron Emission Tomography is perhaps the most ingenious device of the entire group. The PET scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging. This sub-group of advanced imaging technology uses small amounts of nuclear material to diagnose and/or treat a variety of diseases including many types of cancer. In this case, a nuclear accelerator is also needed to generate an isotope called a positron. This is a unique particle; it is a positively charged electron. In short, it is a form of anti-matter. Remember your basic chemistry; an electron is a negatively charged particle. The proton is positively charged and the neutron is neutral. Thus, a "positron" is anti-matter. It has a half life of about 20 minutes and must be injected into the body quickly. The positron reacts with electrons, energy is given off and sensors inside the machine gather the energy outbursts and images are created. Very interestingly, the PET scanner is the only imaging modality that can distinguish between living and dead tissue. It is extremely detailed and accurate. The problem here is the expense. Needing an actual nuclear accelerator in an office is often prohibitively expensive. However, this imaging has it's place. See picture below. Again, it generally looks somewhat like the MRI and CT scan machines.

Chiropractors regularly request more advanced imaging above and beyond conventional X-Rays for details and structural visualization that just can't be seen with plain film X-Rays. These additional advanced imaging technologies have been of great help to patients around the world and are indeed part of the chiropractic diagnostic arsenal.