Health Library

X-ray

Definition

X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the inside of the body.

X-ray of Teeth
Jaw x-ray teeth
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

X-rays can be taken of any part of the body. They are especially good for looking at teeth and injuries to bones.

X-rays can also be used to:

  • Find an infection, especially pneumonia
  • Look for evidence of arthritis
  • Diagnose heart and large blood vessel problems
  • Look for fluid in the lungs
  • Look for problems in the abdomen

By using oral, rectal, bladder or intravenous contrast materials they can used for other reasons, including:

  • Looking at the stomach and intestines, gall bladder, or liver
  • Small blood vessel disease
  • Urinary tract or reproductive syatem abnormalities
  • Bleeding
  • Locating tumors

Possible Complications

An x-ray uses radiation to make images. The low levels of radiation from a single x-ray will not affect most people. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant talk to your doctor before the x-ray. Radiation may be harmful to developing babies.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Before your x-ray is taken, you may be asked to remove jewelry and put on a hospital gown.

Let your doctor know if you are pregnant.

You may be given a type of contrast material.

Description of Test

A lead shield may be placed on parts of your body that are not being x-rayed. This will help reduce your exposure to radiation.

The x-ray device will be placed over the part of your body being studied. You will be asked to remain as still as possible while the images are taken. The x-ray device will send x-rays through your body. The x-rays will be captured on the other side of your body by a computer or on film.

After Test

You will be able to resume your daily activities after the x-ray is complete.

How Long Will It Take?

A few minutes

Will It Hurt?

No

Results

The x-ray will be sent to a radiologist. A report will be sent to you and/or your doctor.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Resources

American College of Radiology
http://www.radiologyinfo.org

Radiation-Emitting Products
Food and Drug Administrationhttp://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/default.htm

Canadian Resources

Canadian Association of Radiologists
http://www.car.ca

Canadian Institute for Health Information
http://www.cihi.ca

References

Grainger RG, et al. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.

Patient safety: radiation dose. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/safety/index.cfm?pg=sfty%5Fxray&bhcp=1. Accessed. Updated April 25, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.