Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Spinal stenosis can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms resemble those of many age-related conditions. Imaging tests may be needed to help pinpoint the true cause of your signs and symptoms.
These tests may include:
- X-rays. Although an X-ray isn't likely to confirm that you have spinal stenosis, it can help rule out other problems that cause similar symptoms.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In most cases, this is the imaging test of choice for diagnosing spinal stenosis. Instead of X-rays, an MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to produce cross-sectional images of your spine. The test can detect damage to your disks and ligaments, as well as the presence of tumors. Most important, it can show pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
- CT myelogram. Computerized tomography (CT) combines X-ray images taken from many different angles to produce detailed, cross-sectional images of your body — including the shape and size of your spinal canal. In a CT myelogram, the CT scan is conducted after a contrast dye is injected. The dye outlines the spinal cord and nerves, and it can reveal herniated disks, bone spurs and tumors.
- Questions and answers about spinal stenosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Spinal_Stenosis/default.asp. Accessed April 19, 2012.
- Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed April 19, 2012.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1678/0.html. Accessed April 19, 2012.
- Cervical stenosis and myelopathy. North American Spine Society. http://www.knowyourback.org/Pages/SpinalConditions/DegenerativeConditions/CStenosis_Myelopathy_Radiculopathy.aspx. Accessed April 20, 2012.
- Levin K. Lumbar spinal stenosis: Treatment and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed April 20, 2012.