X-Rays: Objectives, Preparation, Procedure, Results, Risks

X-Rays: Objectives, Preparation, Procedure, Results, Risks

Deltasion.com – X-rays use invisible beams of electromagnetic energy to
produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film or digital
media. The image shows body parts in various shades of black and white. This
is because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation.

The calcium in the bones absorbs the most X-rays, so the bones look white. Fat
and other soft tissues absorb less and look gray. Air absorbs the least, so
the lungs look black.

There are several types of X-ray examinations, such as:

  • Plain radiographs or plain X-rays (do not use dyes that are injected or
    taken by the patient).
  • CT scan.
  • fluoroscopy.
  • Mammography.
  • angiography.
  • Dental X-ray.
  • Abdominal X-ray.
  • Chest X-ray.

The most common use of x-rays is to check for fractures or fractures, but
x-rays are also used for other purposes. For example, a chest X-ray can detect
pneumonia, or a mammography which uses X-rays to look for breast cancer.

When you have an X-ray, you may wear a lead apron to protect certain parts of
your body. The amount of radiation obtained from X-rays is small. For example,
a chest X-ray gives a dose of radiation that is similar to the amount of
radiation you get from the environment for 10 days.

1. Purpose

X-ray technology is used to examine many parts of the body.

Bones and teeth

  • Fractures and infections: In most cases, fractures and infections of
    the bones and teeth are clearly visible on X-rays.
  • Arthritis: X-rays of the joints can reveal evidence of arthritis or
    arthritis. X-rays taken over the years can help doctors determine if
    arthritis is getting worse.
  • Tooth decay: Dentists use X-rays to check for cavities.
  • Osteoporosis: A special type of X-ray test can measure bone density.
  • Bone cancer: X-rays can detect bone tumors.


  • Breast cancer: Mammography is a specific type of X-ray used to
    examine breast tissue.
  • Lung infections or conditions: Evidence of pneumonia, tuberculosis,
    or lung cancer may be seen on X-rays.
  • Enlarged heart: Signs of congestive heart failure can be clearly seen
    on X-ray examination.
  • Blockage of blood vessels: Injecting a contrast material that
    contains iodine can help highlight parts of the circulatory system so that
    they are visible on X-rays.


  • Gastrointestinal problems: Barium, a contrast medium given in drinks
    or enemas, can help reveal problems in the digestive system.
  • Swallowed object: If the child has swallowed something such as a key
    or a coin, X-rays can pinpoint the location of the object.

2. X-ray with contrast material

X-Rays: Objectives, Preparation, Procedure, Results, Risks

X-Rays: Objectives, Preparation, Procedures, Results, Risks X-ray or X-ray
illustrations (unsplash.com/Harlie Raethel)

Some X-rays use a contrast material (also called a contrast agent or dye).
Contrast material can be in liquid, powder, or pill form. Your healthcare
provider will tell you which contrast material was used before the X-ray.
Depending on the type of X-ray being taken, you may receive a contrast

  • Orally.
  • By injection as from an intravenous (IV) injection.
  • Inserting it into the rectum (enema).

When your healthcare provider gives you dye by IV injection, you may feel
flushed or warm for a while. Some people experience a metallic taste in their
mouth. These side effects will go away in a few minutes.

Contrast agents change the way soft tissues and other structures appear on
X-ray studies, so healthcare providers can view them in greater detail.

3. Preparation

Tell your healthcare provider about your medical history, allergies, and any
medications you are currently taking. If you are pregnant or there is a
possibility of becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding, inform your healthcare
provider before the x-ray.

You usually don’t need to do anything to prepare for a bone X-ray. For other
types of X-rays, your doctor may ask you to:

  • Avoid using lotions, creams, or perfumes.
  • Remove metal objects such as jewelry, hair clips, or hearing aids.
  • Not eating or drinking a few hours before (for an X-ray of the digestive
  • Wear comfortable clothes or change into a hospital gown before the x-ray.

4. Procedure

X-Rays: Objectives, Preparation, Procedure, Results, Risks

X-Rays: Purpose, Preparation, Procedure, Results, RisksIllustration of a
doctor checking X-ray scan results (pexels.com/Anna Shvets)

Reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine, X-rays can be done on an outpatient basis,
or as part of inpatient treatment. While each facility may have a specific
protocol, most X-ray procedures follow this process:

  • The patient will be asked to remove clothing or jewelry that may interfere
    with the exposure of the area of the body to be examined. The patient will
    be given a special gown to wear if clothing has to be removed.
  • The patient is placed on an X-ray table which carefully positions the body
    part to be x-rayed. Some examinations can be performed with the patient in a
    sitting or standing position.
  • Body parts that are not imaged can be covered with a lead (protective) apron
    to avoid exposure to X-rays.
  • X-rays will be directed to the area to be imaged.
  • The patient must be very still or the image will be blurred.
  • The technologist will take pictures behind the protective window.
  • Depending on the part of the body being studied, various X-rays can be taken
    at different angles, such as front and side views during a chest X-ray.

X-rays are stored digitally on a computer, which can be viewed on a screen in
minutes. The radiologist usually sees and interprets the results and sends a
report to the doctor, who then explains the results to you. In an emergency,
X-ray results can be available to doctors within minutes.

5. Risk

As explained on the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
website, when used properly, the diagnostic benefits of X-ray scanning
significantly outweigh the risks.

X-ray scans can diagnose conditions that may be life-threatening, such as
blocked arteries, 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
during a person’s lifetime. However, the risk of developing cancer from
radiation exposure is generally small.

X-rays in pregnant women pose no known risk to the baby if the area of the
body being imaged is not the abdomen or pelvis. In general, if imaging of the
abdomen and pelvis is needed, doctors prefer to use tests that do not use
radiation, such as an MRI or ultrasound. However, if neither of them can
provide the required answers, or there is an emergency or other time
constraint, X-rays may be an acceptable alternative imaging option.

Because children are more sensitive to ionizing radiation and have a longer
life expectancy, they have a higher relative risk of developing cancer from
such radiation compared to adults. Parents may want to ask the technologist or
doctor if their machine settings have been adjusted for children.

X-rays help doctors evaluate health, provide accurate diagnoses, and plan
treatment. Before undergoing this procedure, be sure to let your doctor know
if there is any possibility of pregnancy. X-rays are a safe and effective tool
to help you feel better and stay healthy.

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