An x-ray (radiograph) is a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Radiography involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.
How does a patient prepare for an X-ray and how is it performed?
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure. Metal objects, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the X-ray images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwire. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible. You should also inform the technologist if you are pregnant or if there is a possibility that you could be.
The machine produces a tiny burst of radiation, at a safe level, that passes through your body and records an image on a specialized plate. You can’t feel the X-ray passing through you.
A technologist positions your body to obtain the necessary views. He or she may use pillows or sandbags to help you hold the proper position. During the X-ray exposure, you remain still and hold your breath to avoid moving, which can cause the image to blur.
An X-ray procedure may take only a few minutes for a bone X-ray, or more than an hour for more-involved procedures, such as those using a contrast medium.
How does a patient obtain the results of the X-ray?
After the X-ray is completed, the computer generates visual images of the area of the body that was scanned. These images can be transferred to film (hard copy) or burned to a CD. A radiologist is a physician who is specially trained to interpret images of the body. The interpretation is transmitted in the form of a report to the physician who requested the X-ray. Your physician can then discuss the results with the patient and/or family.