What Is an X-Ray?
X-ray imaging became a valuable diagnostic tool before the 20th Century. The process has evolved over time and remains integral to emergency care in which prompt evaluation is necessary. This modality is one of the most accessible, affordable, and expedient methods of obtaining important data. In fact, the process has become even more efficient thanks to digital software and transmission to the referring physician’s office.
What Do X-Ray Results Show?
X-ray images are often used to observe:
- Bone fractures or other abnormalities of bony structures.
- The extent of joint space, indicating the severity of osteoarthritis.
- The shape and size of the heart, used to diagnose heart conditions.
- The presence of fluid in the lungs or other hollow structure.
- The presence of denser soft tissue, indicating a potential tumor.
Where Are X-Rays Performed?
- Bones and teeth:
Physicians frequently rely on x-ray images to assess the condition of bones because hard tissue such as bone appears white on an x-ray. Clinicians are able to identify areas of decay, infection, and fracture. X-rays can reveal tumors on bone, as well as arthritic conditions in joints.
Physicians may order chest x-rays to evaluate for lung conditions or infection such as pneumonia. Blood vessel blockages may also be revealed if x-rays are performed with contrast material (iodine). X-rays can reveal heart enlargement as well as breast cancer (mammography).
X-ray imaging can quickly identify if a foreign object has been swallowed and where along the digestive tract that object lies.
Am I a Candidate for an X-Ray?
X-ray imaging is a valuable diagnostic tool used to explore potential reasons for chest pain as well as pain in joints and limbs.
Chest x-rays may be performed if a physician suspects tuberculosis or if a patient has chest pain, difficulty breathing, persistent or severe allergies or asthma, or a productive cough.
X-rays may also be necessary if any bony structure has suffered an injury. For example, falling on an outstretched hand may cause a fracture or other injury to the wrist. An x-ray observes the extent of injury to the wrist, enabling a physician to administer appropriate treatment.
X-ray imaging represents a significant advancement in medicine. This form of imaging has been safely used for several years, sharply decreasing the need for exploratory surgery and guesswork in diagnostic care. X-rays are routinely performed to improve the accuracy of medical diagnoses and to monitor various health conditions. X-ray images can support physicians in the development of medical and surgical treatment planning, and also provide assistance during medical procedures such as the removal of blood clots or the insertion of a stent or other device.
X-Ray vs MRI & CT Scan
X-rays and CT scans both rely on radiation to capture accurate images. X-rays enable physicians to differentiate between hard matter and soft, or air. CT scans produce cross-sectional, 360-degree images by revolving x-ray beams around the body and capture images. The result is a high-quality 3-dimensional view.
MRI imaging requires more time on the table than most X-rays and CT scans. There is no radiation exposure during Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A clear view of normal versus abnormal tissue is obtained with strong magnets and radio waves.
Risks of X-Ray Imaging
We know from research that the value of X-ray imaging outweighs the risks of radiation exposure. How much exposure takes place is dependent on the part of the body being observed. According to experts, the radiation emitted by x-ray machines is low, and should not pose significant risk of cell mutation. Patients who are pregnant or who think they might be need to disclose this information to their physician and to GO Imaging. Women that are pregnant will not receive an X-ray. The doctor will offer an alternative exam.
What to Expect During X-Ray
- Prior to X-ray imaging, the patient may have to remove jewelry and certain articles of clothing.
- The patient is then positioned in such a manner to facilitate the clearest view of the anatomy to be examined.
- For certain X-rays, the patient may need to hold his or her breath.
- The technician will step just outside of the X-ray area to operate the X-ray machine.
- X-rays are reviewed before the patient leaves the facility. This is done to ensure quality images have been obtained.
- If necessary, the radiologist will then take more images. Otherwise, the patient is released from the facility.
After the x-rays, your radiologist will review and interpret the images. The radiologist will send a report to the referring physician, who will contact or schedule an office visit.
Following Up After an X-Ray
The results of x-ray screening are used by physicians to confirm, monitor, and plan. During your follow-up with your doctor, the images obtained during your x-ray may be reviewed with you to show you the location and extent of a bone fracture or other aspect of your current condition.