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What is a Radiologist?

Sentara patients can have X-ray procedures performed at numerous locations throughout the Sentara healthcare system. Technologists are trained to X-ray/image many different parts of the body. The X-ray images are then read by a radiologist to help diagnose your condition.

About X-rays

X-rays are one of the oldest and most frequently used methods to clinically diagnose and treat medical conditions.

Some exams require the use of contrast medium, commonly referred to as X-ray dye. The contrast agent may be required to outline or assist in visualizing a specific area of  your body.

Woman should always inform their physician and the X-ray technologist if there is any possibility of  pregnancy.

X-ray of shoulder and ribs

What is an X-ray?
X-rays use a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce images of specific areas of the body.

Structures, such as bone, are dense and block most of the  X-ray beam. They will appear white on the X-ray image.

Structures containing air will appear black or dark
    on the X-ray image.

Muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as different shades of  gray on the X-ray image.

Types of X-rays:
    Spine (lower back) 
Thoracic Spine
Neck/Cervical Spine
Pelvis and Hips
Skull, Sinuses, Facial,
    Nasal Bones, etc.
Skeletal Bones in General

For additional information on each of these tests visit the National Institutes of Health website or RadiologyInfo.org.

How do I prepare for my exam?
X-ray exams are performed differently, depending upon the body part being examined. The technologist performing your exam will explain the exam. Feel free to ask questions for further clarification.

Women should inform their physician if they are pregnant or potentially pregnant. If an X-ray procedure is deemed clinically necessary by your physician, the technologist will take precautions to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.

Your physician should give you detailed, specific instructions on how to prepare for your exam. Some exams will require patients to fast, while others may require fasting as well as cleansing laxatives.

Questions you may be asked:
Technologists will ask questions prior to exam, including location and length of time for pain, type of injury if any, prior diagnoses for diseases that my correlate to your current condition, prior surgeries to the affected area.

Some procedures will require the technologist to review current medications, doses, and dates/times taken. Please bring a detailed listing. Some procedures will require the technologist to review allergies or allergic history, height and weight.

Patients may be asked to wear a gown, depending upon what body part is being examined, and to remove all metallic objects, jewelry, certain types of clothing, and any other objects considered as potentials for obscuring the X-ray images.

How is the test performed?
Some exams require the use of contrast medium, commonly referred to as X-ray dye. The contrast agent is required to outline or assist in visualizing a specific area of your body. These exams are considered minimally invasive and may be considered uncomfortable or mildly painful by some patients.

If a contrast agent is required for the exam, it may be injected into a vein, swallowed, or introduced rectally. The rout of entry will depend on the exam.

Even though most X-ray exams are considered painless, patients may be asked to remain still in somewhat awkward positions for a short period of time. Patients also may be asked to hold their breath while the X-ray exposure is being made to avoid motion and blurring.

The technologist will do everything possible to make the exam as comfortable as possible. However, the various positions required to demonstrate some intricate bony structures may be uncomfortable if patients are already in pain.

If contrast medium was used during the exam, instructions will be given on what to do or expect after the exam. If any precautions are required, they will also be discussed with you. Feel free to ask questions for further clarification.

Are there risks?

As with any other medical procedure, X-rays are safe when used with care. Radiologists and X-ray technologists have been educated and trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain the required X-ray images. The amount of radiation used for most exams is small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm.

X-rays are produced only when the technologist depresses the exposure switch. This is typically a very short exposure time. No radiation remains after the exposure switch is off.

Technologists use a light field that is directed on the patients that assist with properly centering to the specific anatomy of interest. The light field indicates the area that will be radiated and by law, the field of radiation cannot be larger than the receptor where the image will be produced.

Lead shielding will also be used during the exam as long as it does not obscure the area of interest. Lead shielding helps prevent scatter radiation from radiating other parts of the body that may be more sensitive to radiation, such as the reproductive organs.

Children and Babies
Since young children and babies are more sensitive to the risks of X-rays, extra care will be taken to apply adequate lead shielding.

Women should tell their health care providers if they are pregnant or potentially pregnant.

Read more about X-ray safety and X-rays during pregnancy:

How will you receive your X-ray results?
A radiologist is a physician who is specially trained to read/interpret X-ray images. The results will be sent to the physician who ordered your X-ray exam. If you do not hear from your ordering physician in a reasonable amount of time, call his/her office for the results.



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