What Is an X-ray?

X-ray is the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging. X-rays can produce diagnostic images of the human body on film or digitally that allow Banner Health doctors to view and assess broken bones.

X-rays play an important role in guiding orthopedic surgery and in the treatment of sports-related injuries. The images produced from X-rays may also uncover more advanced forms of cancer in bones, although early screening for cancer findings requires other methods.

What Are the Benefits of Digital X-ray?

Digital X-ray has many potential benefits for you. These benefits include:

  • Safe – Less radiation than from conventional X-rays
  • Fast – Takes less time because the technology can preview your images in seconds
  • Comfortable – Digital imaging technology is mobile, meaning exams can often be performed upright, rather than on an examination table
  • Less exposure – Your doctor has the ability to highlight areas of interest and magnify images for a more detailed exam
  • Image quality
  • Accurate

What Are Some Common Uses of X-ray?

Your doctor may recommend an X-ray for a number of reasons, including:

  • To help identify and treat bone fractures
  • To view, monitor or diagnose joint injuries and infections, arthritis, artery blockages and abdominal pain
  • To detect and diagnose cancer, although CT (computed tomography) scans or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are usually better at defining the extent and the nature of a suspected cancer

How Should I Prepare for an X-ray?

There is no special preparation required for most bone X-rays. You may need 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 Can I Expect During This Procedure?

An X-ray exam usually takes 5 minutes to half an hour and includes the following steps:

  • The technologist positions you on the exam table and places a film holder under the table in the area of your body to be imaged
  • Pillows may be used to help you hold the proper position
  • Then the technologist steps behind a radiation barrier and asks you to hold very still without breathing for a few seconds
  • The X-ray equipment is activated, sending a beam of X-rays through your body to expose the film
  • The technologist then repositions you for another view, and the process is repeated as necessary
  • When your 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. You may be slightly uncomfortable and cold while lying on the table. Sometimes, to get a clear image of an injury such as a possible fracture, you may have to hold an uncomfortable position for a short time — any movement could blur the image and make it necessary to repeat the procedure.

What to Expect During an X-ray Exam

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