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What are X-rays?

It is important not to move during the x-ray. A radiologist will then assess the images and send a report to your doctor. Contrast dye is a substance that is sometimes used during plain x-ray, CT scanning, angiography or other tests. It helps to enhance the contrast in x-ray images, making them easier to read.

It may be given to you orally or by injection. Commonly used contrast dyes are iodine-containing contrast medium and gadolinium contrast medium.


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Patients with kidney problems face greater risks when having contrast medium than other people. If you have kidney problems and need an x-ray with contrast medium, talk to your doctor first. Some people are allergic to contrast dye. Most people who have allergic reactions have mild ones, although a severe allergic reaction is possible. An x-ray uses a small amount of radiation to create an image. Some types of x-ray, such as CT scanning and angiography, use higher doses of radiation than plain x-rays.

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That small amount of radiation might give people having x-rays a very slightly increased risk of developing cancer some years later. Children should have alternatives to x-ray, such as an ultrasound, when possible. In pregnant women, x-rays expose the foetus to small amounts of radiation. Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

X-rays use a special type of radiation to take pictures of bones and some parts inside the body, including the lungs. Read more on WA Health website. This article tells consumers about a chest x-ray, the benefits and the risks, what happens before, during and after having a chest x-ray. Read more on Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website. This article tells consumers about an x-ray, the benefits and the risks, what happens before, during and after having an x-ray. X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to radio waves, microwaves, visible light and gamma rays.

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InsideRadiology provides free and easily accessible, accurate, up to date and credible information about medical imaging tests and procedures. Read more on InsideRadiology website. This article tells consumers about the radiation risks of having x-rays scans which use ionising radiation. X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. Tumors tend to appear as regular or irregular-shaped masses that are somewhat brighter than the background on the radiograph i. Mammograms can also detect tiny bits of calcium, called microcalcifications, which show up as very bright specks on a mammogram.

While usually benign, microcalcifications may occasionally indicate the presence of a specific type of cancer. CT computed tomography : Combines traditional x-ray technology with computer processing to generate a series of cross-sectional images of the body that can later be combined to form a three-dimensional x-ray image. CT images are more detailed than plain radiographs and give doctors the ability to view structures within the body from many different angles.

Fluoroscopy: Uses x-rays and and a fluorescent screen to obtain real-time images of movement within the body or to view diagnostic processes, such as following the path of an injected or swallowed contrast agent. For example, fluoroscopy is used to view the movement of the beating heart, and, with the aid of radiographic contrast agents, to view blood flow to the heart muscle as well as through blood vessels and organs.

This technology is also used with a radiographic contrast agent to guide an internally threaded catheter during cardiac angioplasty, which is a minimally invasive procedure for opening clogged arteries that supply blood to the heart.

X-rays of the Extremities | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Radiation therapy in cancer treatment: X-rays and other types of high-energy radiation can be used to destroy cancerous tumors and cells by damaging their DNA [ 1 ]. The radiation dose used for treating cancer is much higher than the radiation dose used for diagnostic imaging. Click here for more information on radiation therapy for cancer. When used appropriately, the diagnostic benefits of x-ray scans significantly outweigh the risks.

X-ray scans can diagnose possibly life-threatening conditions such as blocked blood vessels, bone cancer, and infections. However, x-rays produce ionizing radiation—a form of radiation that has the potential to harm living tissue. This is a risk that increases with the number of exposures added up over the life of the individual.

However, the risk of developing cancer from radiation exposure is generally small. A portable x-ray machine is a compact apparatus that can be taken to the patient in a hospital bed or the emergency room. The x-ray tube is connected to a flexible arm that is extended over the patient while an x-ray film holder or image recording plate is placed beneath the patient. X-rays are a form of radiation like light or radio waves. X-rays pass through most objects, including the body.

Once it is carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined, an x-ray machine produces a small burst of radiation that passes through the body, recording an image on photographic film or a special detector. Different parts of the body absorb the x-rays in varying degrees. Dense bone absorbs much of the radiation while soft tissue, such as muscle, fat and organs, allow more of the x-rays to pass through them.

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As a result, bones appear white on the x-ray, soft tissue shows up in shades of gray and air appears black. Most x-ray images are digital files that are stored electronically. These stored images are easily accessible for diagnosis and disease management. The technologist, an individual specially trained to perform radiology examinations, positions the patient on the x-ray table and places the x-ray film holder or digital recording plate under the table in the area of the body being imaged. When necessary, sandbags, pillows or other positioning devices will be used to help you maintain the proper position.

What is Bone X-ray (Radiography)?

A lead apron may be placed over your pelvic area or breasts when feasible to protect from radiation. You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine. You may be repositioned for another view and the process is repeated.

Two or three images from different angles will typically be taken. An x-ray may also be taken of the unaffected limb, or of a child's growth plate where new bone is forming , for comparison purposes. When the examination is complete, you may be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained. You may experience discomfort from the cool temperature in the examination room. You may also find holding still in a particular position and lying on the hard examination table uncomfortable, especially if you are injured.

The technologist will assist you in finding the most comfortable position possible that still ensures x-ray image quality. A radiologist , a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician , who will discuss the results with you. Follow-up exams may be needed. If so, your doctor will explain why.

What Are X-Rays?

Sometimes a follow-up exam is done because a potential abnormality needs further evaluation with additional views or a special imaging technique. A follow-up exam may also be done to see if there has been any change in an abnormality over time. Follow-up exams are sometimes the best way to see if treatment is working or if an abnormality is stable or has changed. Special care is taken during x-ray examinations to use the lowest radiation dose possible while producing the best images for evaluation. National and international radiology protection organizations continually review and update the technique standards used by radiology professionals.

Modern x-ray systems have very controlled x-ray beams and dose control methods to minimize stray scatter radiation. This ensures that those parts of a patient's body not being imaged receive minimal radiation exposure. While x-ray images are among the clearest, most detailed views of bone, they provide little information about muscles, tendons or joints.

An MRI may be more useful in identifying bone and joint injuries e. MRI can also detect subtle or occult fractures or bone bruises also called bone contusions or microfractures not visible on x-ray images.