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X-Rays

What is this test?

An X-ray is a diagnostic imaging tool used to create pictures of the inside of the body.

The images are created through low-doses of electromagnetic radiation passing through the body.

The parts of the body that are denser—such as bones—absorb a greater amount of radiation and appear brighter on the X-ray images. Softer parts of the body, such as muscle and fat, appear darker.

X-rays are used to diagnose broken and fractured bones, joint problems, tumors, some infections, and enlarged organs as well as some digestive problems. X-rays are quick and painless.

The amount of radiation exposure from an X-ray is very small, but young children and babies in the womb are more sensitive to the risks of exposure.

Inform your physician or the X-ray technologist if you are pregnant.

How the test is performed

The test is done in a hospital radiology department, urgent care facility, or an outpatient facility. How you are positioned depends on the type of X-ray being done. Several different X-ray views may be needed.

You need to stay still when you are having an X-ray. Motion can cause blurry images. You may be asked to hold your breath or not move for a second or two when the image is being taken.

How to prepare for the test

Before the X-ray, tell your health care team if you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or if you have an IUD inserted.

Metal can cause unclear images. You will need to remove all jewelry, and you may need to wear a hospital gown.

How the test will feel

X-rays are painless, but some body positions needed during an X-ray may be uncomfortable for a short time.

Risks

X-rays are monitored and regulated, so you get the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image.

For most X-rays, the risk of cancer or defects is very low. Most experts feel that the benefits of appropriate X-ray imaging greatly outweigh any risks.

Young children and babies in the womb are more sensitive to the risks of X-rays. Tell your health care provider if you think you might be pregnant.

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