What is an X-Ray?

An x-ray is used to diagnose fractured bones or dislocated joints by using a small amount of radiation that is passed through the body, which records an image digitally or on film.
Different body parts absorb radiation differently so bones show up as white, tissue shows up as gray and air shows up as black. Most x-ray images are now stored electronically, which makes comparing images over time easier for diagnosis and treatment.

What to Expect During Your X-Ray Procedure?

What to Wear

When you arrive for your x-ray procedure you may be asked to change into a gown for easy access to the exam area. Buttons and zippers can show up on x-ray images and can interfere with the image, which is why you may need to change out of your clothing before the exam.

How Long Do X-Rays Take?

The exam is painless and you will be asked to lie on a table where the x-ray film holder or digital recording plate will be positioned over the area of the body to be examined. The technologist will step away from you for a moment while the radio waves pass through your body. This takes about 15-20 seconds while they step behind a wall and administer the exam.

Contrast X-Rays

Certain types of x-ray procedures require a contrast dye to better see the parts of the body being examined, such a barium enema or barium swallow. 

In a barium enema for the lower GI, the contrast material is administered through the rectum. A lubricated enema tip is inserted into your rectum and a liquid barium mixture will be released. The barium mixture will be observed on the television screen as it flows through your colon. 

If your physician has requested an air contrast barium enema as well, air will also be release into the colon along with the barium. In a barium swallow test for the upper GI, you will be asked to drink a liquid barium mixture while the radiologist watches the barium flow through your digestive tract.

What Do X-Rays Show?

There are several types of x-rays that are used to show physicians different parts of the body from head to toe. The benefits of an x-ray are they are quick and painless and do not deliver very much radiation. In fact, an x-ray delivers about the same amount of radiation as the security check at the airport.

Bone and Teeth X-Rays

  • Broken Bones
  • Dental decay
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Bone Cancer

Chest X-Rays

  • Mammograms
  • Heart failure
  • Blocked blood vessels
  • Lung infections or conditions

Abdomen X-Rays

  • Digestive tract issues
  • Swallowed foreign objects

X-Ray Side Effects and Risks

One of the dangers of x-rays is radiation exposure to an unborn fetus. Please inform the technologist if you may be pregnant. If there is any possibility of pregnancy, a pregnancy test may be ordered before the exam. It takes at least 75 minutes to receive the results from the pregnancy blood test.

Additional risks are exposure to radiation, and while there is exposure to the area of the body being scanned, x-rays produce a small amount of radiation therefore reducing any x-ray side effects.

What to Expect After Your X-Ray Procedure

After the exam is complete your images will be sent to a radiologist to review where a report will be drafted and sent to your physician to go over with you at your next appointment.

If you have had an x-ray with a contrast dye, you will want to drink plenty of fluids in the days following the x-ray to flush out the contrast dye from your system.