What is an X-Ray?
X-rays use external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures to diagnose a problem. X-rays pass through body tissues onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film). It makes a "negative" type picture. Computers and digital media may be used in place of films.
Different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. Images are produced in degrees of light and dark, depending on the amount of X-rays that penetrate the tissues. The more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the picture. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.
How is it Done?
- You will need to take off any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that might prevent a clear picture. If you are asked to remove clothing, you will be given a gown or other item to wear.
- Your body will be positioned in a way that carefully places the part to be X-rayed between the X-ray machine and the film. You may be asked to stand up, lie flat on a table, or lie on your side on a table, depending on the X-ray view your healthcare provider has asked for. You may have X-rays taken from more than one position.
- Body parts not being X-rayed may be covered with a lead apron or shield to limit exposure to the X-rays.
- Once you are positioned, the X-ray beam is focused on the area to be examined. It is very important to stay completely still while the X-ray is taken. Any movement may ruin the image and may require another X-ray to be done.
- The radiologic technologist steps behind a protective window while the image is taken.
- You will be asked to hold still for a few moments while the X-ray is taken and may be asked to hold your breath.
X-rays are painless and fast. However, you may feel some discomfort or pain while your body is being positioned for the X-ray, particularly if you’ve recently had surgery or been injured. The radiologic technologist will do what they can to minimize any discomfort or pain.
Support and Resources
© Copyright 2017 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved.
This medical information is provided by Intermountain Healthcare. It has not been developed to replace medical advice provided by your health care provider.
Last review date: March 2017