Do you think you need an X-ray? Read on to learn more about this common procedure.

What Is an X-ray?

X-ray imaging has been used for many years to give physicians a glimpse inside your body at your bones, muscles and more without having to make an incision. This imaging test provides doctors with the ability to diagnose, treat and monitor a variety of medical conditions. X-ray machines use electromagnetic radiation, so there is some risk as high doses of these invisible rays can cause radiation burns or even cancer. However, the diagnostic benefits of X-ray imaging far outweigh these concerns.

Using specialized equipment, images are created by sending X-ray particles called photons through the body. X-ray film or computers are then used to capture the images of your body’s internal structures that are produced. Dense structures, like bone or metal, appear white in the images because they block most of the X-ray particles from traveling through them. Muscles, fat and fluids, however, appear in various shades of gray. Structures that contain air look black.

About the Procedure

Depending on what part of your body requires an X-ray, the specially trained technologist will position you so the device can get the best images. You could be asked to sit, lie down on a table or even stand. You may also be asked to change positions several times. Generally, patients sit or lie down as a large camera attached to a steel arm moves over your body capturing X-ray images. While the X-ray machine takes pictures, it’s important to stay as still as possible, as moving could blur the images.

Common Uses of X-rays

X-rays are an essential diagnostic tool that may be recommended for a variety of reasons, the most common being:

  • Examining areas of the body experiencing discomfort or pain
  • Monitoring the progression of a disease, such as osteoporosis
  • Checking up on how a prescribed treatment is working

The areas where X-rays are often performed are the bones, teeth, chest, mouth, skull, neck, pelvis, joints and hands. You may also have to undergo a full-body X-ray. We most commonly associate X-rays with broken or fractured bones, but it’s also useful in diagnosing conditions such as arthritis, cancerous tumors, osteoporosis, infections, blocked blood vessels and more.

Preparing for an X-ray Procedure

If you come to Health Images for an X-ray procedure, there’s not much you will need to do ahead of time to prepare. We will ensure you are aware of all the risks involved ahead of time due to radiation exposure. This is especially true for pregnant women, so be sure to inform us if you are or believe you may be pregnant.

Before the X-ray, you will have to remove all metal objects, like belts and jewelry. You may need to wear medical scrubs (top and pants) or a hospital gown, depending on what part of your body is being examined. Sometimes, contrast dye is injected ahead of time.