The basic aim of diagnostic imaging is to record a pattern of densities on a film, or illumination levels on a monitor, that corresponds to and conveys diagnostic information on the size, shape, pattern, and distribution of different tissues within a patient. Familiarity with both anatomy and radiologic anatomy of the spine is a prerequisite to understanding the various disorders and pathologies that affect the spine and its components. We dedicated the first chapter to describing anatomical details of the spine. This chapter is aimed toward introducing the main modalities currently in use for spinal imaging in medicine: X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We think it is useful to shed some light on the physics behind these modalities both so that the observer will better understand the image produced and to facilitate the choice of the optimal imaging necessary for the clinical problems encountered. Each of these modalities possesses advantages and disadvantages.

This chapter briefly describes the physics behind these modalities. A better understanding of the features in the image produced and their significance will help physicians evaluate the contribution of each of these modalities for detecting and diagnosing the broad spectrum of spinal disorders.

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