An X-ray is a noninvasive test that assists in diagnosing and treating various medical conditions. X-rays involve exposing a body part to a small dose of ionizing radiation, which allows physicians to look inside the body.
- 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 the body.
- Women should always inform their physician and the X-ray tech if there is any possibility of pregnancy.
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
- Pelvis and hips
- Skull, sinuses, facial
- Nasal bones
How do I prepare for my exam?
Most X-rays require no special preparation. If you have clothes that may interfere with the X-ray, you may be asked to change into a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any other metal objects that might interfere with the X-ray images.
Women should always inform their physician or X-ray tech if there is any possibility that they are or could be pregnant.
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, depending on the exam.
Patients may be asked to remain still or hold their breath to avoid blurring.
If contrast medium was used during the exam, instructions will be given on what to do or expect after the exam.
Are there risks?
As with any other medical procedure, X-rays are safe when used with care. Radiologists and X-ray techs have been educated and trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain the required 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 tech depresses the exposure switch. This is typically a very short exposure time. No radiation remains after the exposure switch is off.
Lead shielding may be used during the exam as long as it does not obscure the image. Lead shielding helps prevent scatter radiation from reaching 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.
How will you receive your X-ray results?
A radiologist specially trained to read and interpret X-ray images will send results to the physician who ordered the X-rays.