Radiography (X-Rays)


Radiography (x-rays) is a quickly and easily accessible means of obtaining images of body structures, especially bones.

X-rays can pass through the body. However, they are absorbed depending on the density of the material through which they pass. Dense materials, such as bone and metal, appear white on X-rays. The air in the lungs turns black. Fat and muscle look in shades of gray.

In some X-rays, contrast agents such as iodine or barium are injected into the body to make the X-rays very detailed. Contrast agents can cause adverse effects in some people. X-rays can also expose the patient to small doses of radiation. However, the benefits of this procedure far outweigh the risks.

Why do I need an X-ray?

X-ray technology is used to examine multiple parts of the body.

  • Bones and teeth (dental) X-rays
  • Fractures and infections. Fractures and infections of bones and teeth are usually clearly visible on X-rays.
  • Arthritis. X-rays of your joints may show signs of arthritis. X-rays that have been ordered over several years can help your doctor determine if your arthritis is getting worse.
  • Tooth decay. Dentists use X-rays to check for tooth decay.
  • Osteoporosis. A special type of X-ray can measure the density of your bones (densitometry).
  • Bone cancer. X-rays can also show tumors in your bones.

Chest X-rays

  • An infection or problem with the lungs. A chest x-ray can show signs of problems such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, or lung cancer.
  • Breast cancer. A mammogram is a special type of x-ray used to examine breast tissue.
  • ....... Heart and mediastinal enlargement. Lesions of the heart and mediastinum may be seen.
  • Blocked blood vessels. The use of an iodine-containing contrast agent may help to illuminate parts of the circulatory system that are visible on the x-ray.

Abdominal X-rays

  • Digestive disorders. Barium, a contrast agent administered in the form of a drink or an enema, can help visualize problems in all parts of the digestive system.
  • Swallowed items. If your child has swallowed something, such as a key or coin, an x-ray examination can show where the object is located inside the body.


  • Radiation Exposure

You may be concerned that X-rays are dangerous because high doses of radiation may cause cell mutations that could turn into cancer. However, the amount of radiation you are exposed to during an X-ray is extremely small, so the risk of damaging cells in your body is very low.

However, if you are pregnant or may be pregnant, you must notify your doctor before undergoing an X-ray examination. Although the risk to the fetus from the diagnostic X-ray is low in most cases, your doctor will decide whether it is better to wait or use other imaging methods, such as ultrasound.

Contrast Agents

For some individuals; administration of contrast agents may cause adverse effects including the following:

  • Feeling of warmth or flushing
  • Iron taste in the mouth
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Urticaria

In rare cases, severe reactions to the contrast agents may occur, such as:

  • Severely low blood pressure
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Heart attack

How to prepare?

Each type of X-ray system requires different kinds of preparation. Ask your doctor or nurse for more information.

What clothes should you wear for an X-ray?

Typically, patients should remove their clothes from the body part to be examined; depending on the area to be X-rayed, a hospital gown may be used during the examination. It may also be desirable to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, or other metal objects that may distort and show up on the x-ray film.

Contrast agent

During different types of X-ray examinations, a liquid called a contrast agent is administered before the scan. Contrast agents, such as barium and iodine, help outline specific parts of the body on X-ray images. Contrast agents can be taken orally, through injection or by means of an enema.


What to expect during an X-ray?

X-rays are available to patients in most clinics, dental offices, emergency rooms, and hospitals that have x-ray machines. The machine generates a radiation level that is quite safe, passes through the body, and records the image on film or a special plate; you do not feel the x-rays passing through your body; the x-rays are not visible to you, but they are recorded on a special plate that is placed on the body's surface.

The technician adjusts your body position to achieve the desired shape. You may also use pillows or sandbags to help you maintain the correct position. You'll need to hold your breath while the x-ray is being taken to avoid blurring the image.

An x-ray procedure can take a few minutes for a bone x-ray or an hour or more for more extensive tests, such as procedures that use contrast agents.

Pediatric x-ray exam

If your child needs to be examined with an x-ray, you can use straps or other immobilization techniques to keep them still. This will not harm your child and will prevent you from having to repeat the procedure if your child moves during the x-ray exposure. You may stay with your child during the procedure. If you remain in the X-ray room during the examination, you will be asked to wear a lead apron to protect yourself from unnecessary exposure.

What can I expect after a chest X-ray?

After your x-ray, usually you may resume your normal activities. Routine x-rays usually don't have any side effects. However, if you were given a contrast agent before your x-ray, call your doctor if you have pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site. Ask your doctor about the risks of other signs and symptoms you might expect with an x-ray.


X-rays are either captured on film or digitally recorded on a computer. Digital images can be displayed on the screen within minutes. A specialist radiologist will usually interpret the results and send the report to your doctor, who will explain the results to you. In emergencies, X-ray results can be sent to your doctor within minutes.