Programs & Services
An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.
How does the procedure work?
X-rays are a form of radiation like light or radio waves. X-rays pass through most objects, including the body. Once it is carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined, an x-ray machine produces a small burst of radiation that passes through the body, recording an image on photographic film or a special digital image recording plate.
Different parts of the body absorb the x-rays in varying degrees. Dense bone absorbs much of the radiation while soft tissue, such as muscle, fat and organs, allow more of the x-rays to pass through them. As a result, bones appear white on the x-ray, soft tissue shows up in shades of gray and air appears black.
For example, on a chest x-ray, the ribs and spine will absorb much of the radiation and appear white or light gray on the image. Lung tissue absorbs little radiation and will appear dark on the image.
Until recently, x-ray images were maintained as hard film copy (much like a photographic negative). Today, most images are digital files that are stored electronically. These stored images are easily accessible and are sometimes compared to current x-ray images for diagnosis and disease management.
Before the Exam
- You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam.
- You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
- Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation. If an x-ray is necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.
During the Exam
- Depending on the area to be examined you may be asked to lie on an examination table, sit on a stool or stand.
- The technologist, an individual specially trained to perform radiology examinations, will position the patient to best demonstrate the area to be examined.
- You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image.
- The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine.
After the Exam
When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.
The examination is usually completed within 15 - 30 minutes.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
An x-ray examination itself is a painless procedure. You may experience discomfort from the cool temperature in the examination room and the coldness of the recording plate. The technologist will assist you in finding the most comfortable position possible that still ensures diagnostic image quality.