What Is An X-Ray?
In its very early days, the ability of X-ray imaging to show the insides of the human body captivated the public. Even shoe stores used X-rays to get images of foot bones for sizing shoes. But the venerable X-ray still has powerful diagnostic power, and with new digital upgrades, it can do more than ever before, even as other imaging techniques such as ultrasound and MRIs gain wider use.
X-rays are a form of electromagnetic energy. When X-ray waves pass through the human body, they produce images of bones and some organs, which show up in varying shades of black and white. Some tissues don’t show clearly on an X-ray, so other imaging techniques may be needed to diagnose health conditions that affect them. But X-rays can still be effective for providing immediate information about conditions affecting many parts of the body.
How Do You Prepare For An X-Ray Exam?
Preparation varies depending on the type of X-ray and which part of the body is being examined, and you can expect more detailed instructions from your physician. X-rays often require you to remove jewelry or other metal objects to prevent them from affecting the test’s outcome. You will typically be told to undress the part of the body that is being X-rayed, and may be given a gown for the examination.
Some X-ray tests involve taking a contrast agent – a substance, taken orally or received as an injection, which will highlight parts of the body to help make the results appear more clearly.
Why Is An X-Ray Examination Performed?
X-rays can still be effective for providing immediate information about conditions affecting many parts of the body, including:
Bone shows clearly on an X-ray because the calcium in bones absorbs a lot of the radiation. That makes it possible to easily diagnose a variety of bone-related problems, most commonly broken or fractured bones. But today’s sophisticated X-ray imaging technologies also allow doctors to quickly diagnose conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis (a condition that makes bone brittle and fragile), as well as some kinds of infections and cancers of the bone.
Mammograms are a form of X-ray, and they are used routinely to spot denser areas of breast tissue that could be a cancerous tumor or to identify other breast conditions, such as calcifications.
X-rays can be used to diagnose some heart and circulatory problems, such as an enlarged heart, blocked or narrowed blood vessels, or abnormalities in blood vessels in the brain.
Chest X-rays can reveal the presence of diseases that affect the lungs, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and lung cancer. X-rays can also be used to diagnose certain kinds of infections in the lungs and other tissues.
What Can You Expect During An X-Ray Appointment?
Until relatively recently, people who needed an X-ray were typically sent to a hospital, and the images taken there were sent back to the primary care doctor for use in managing treatment. But new digital technology and innovative hardware make it possible for X-rays to be performed just about anywhere.
Now, mobile X-ray services travel to patients in hard to reach areas, providing the same level of diagnostic services as a hospital would. And increasingly, physicians’ offices are expanding their suite of diagnostic tools with X-ray machines right on the premises — a setup that offers benefits for both doctors and their patients.
On-premises X-ray services allow doctors to work directly with X-ray technicians and other radiology professionals who are attached to the practice. Because X-ray machines are usually just down the hall, doctors can send patients for an X-ray within the framework of a standard office visit. When the tools of advanced X-ray technology are available right in the office, our doctors can get results quickly — and start treatments right away.
What Is The Follow Up For An X-Ray Exam?
An X-ray examination will not require any time for recovery – you can continue your life as normal immediately following the appointment. Once the X-ray is performed, a radiologist will examine the images before passing them along to your physician. A follow-up appointment may be necessary to discuss the results of your examination.
What Are The Potential Risks Of An X-Ray?
X-ray examinations are routine, painless, and very safe diagnostic procedures. The exam does involve some radiation, roughly equivalent to the amount that your body would absorb over the course of a normal week. There is an extremely small chance that X-ray tests can contribute to the development of cancer, but the likelihood is negligible, especially if you avoid getting an unnecessarily high number of X-ray examinations over the course of your life.