Following an episode of significant trauma, the supporting structures of the cervical spine often require definitive imaging. CT reliably excludes most fractures, however suffers from the inability to evaluate many acute types of disc injury, as well as any neurological injury.
MRI is an important adjunct to CT and in fact, the two tests are complimentary, as the strength in CT is to exclude osseous injury and the role of MRI is to exclude disc, ligament and neurological (spinal nerve and spinal cord) injury. MRI can even show small osseous contusions (“bone bruises”) that are typically CT occult and though not unstable, may account for unexplained pain following a normal CT examination.
In the context of neurological symptoms following trauma, MRI is considered mandatory.