X-ray is the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging. X-ray diagnostic exams produce images of the human body that allow doctors to view and assess broken bones or other injuries. An important tool in guiding orthopedic surgery and in the treatment of sports-related injuries, X-ray may also uncover more advanced forms of cancer in bones, although early screening for cancer findings requires other methods.

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What are the benefits of digital x-ray?

  • Safer: Digital X-rays expose you to less radiation than conventional X-rays; because the radiologist can highlight digital images and magnify areas for a more detailed exam they also require fewer repeat exposures
  • Faster: The digital process takes less time: the technologist can preview your images in seconds
  • More comfortable: Because digital imaging technology is mobile, exams often can be performed upright rather than on an examination table
  • More accurate: The enhanced image quality of digital X-rays includes higher resolution, increased clarity, and the ability to magnify areas for a “closer look” at the body areas being assessed. All of these advantages increase the accuracy of diagnostic reviews.

What are some common uses of x-ray?

  • Assist doctors in identifying and treating fractures
  • View, monitor or diagnose joint injuries and infections, arthritis, abdominal pain
  • Although usually computed tomography (CT) or MRI exams are better at defining the extent and the nature of a suspected cancer, under some circumstances X-rays may also be used in the detection and diagnosis of cancer

How should I prepare for an x-ray?

  • There is no special preparation required for most bone x-rays
  • You may be asked to change into a gown before your examination and remove jewelry, eyeglasses and any metal objects during the exam
  • Women should always inform the technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant

What should I expect during this exam?

  • An x-ray exam usually takes five minutes to half an hour
  • A technologist will position the body for the most effective imaging – either upright or on an exam table—and will place a film holder (behind body or under the table) in the area of the body to be imaged
  • Pillows may be used to help the person being examined to hold the proper position
  • After the person is in place, the technologist will step behind a radiation barrier and ask them to hold very still, without breathing for a few seconds
  • The technologist activates the x-ray equipment, which sends a beam of x-rays through the body to expose the film
  • The technologist then repositions the body for another view, and the process is repeated as necessary
  • When the x-rays are completed you will be asked to wait until the technologist checks the images

What will I experience during an x-ray?

  • X-ray imaging is painless
  • Some discomfort may result from lying on the table, a hard surface that may feel cold
  • Sometimes, to get a clear image of an injury such as a possible fracture, you may be asked to hold an uncomfortable position for a short time. Any movement could blur the image and make it necessary to repeat the procedure.