X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. The use of x-rays is called radiography.
- A machine sends streams of individual x-ray particles, called photons, at a certain place on the body. These particles pass through the body and the images that are created are recorded.
- Dense (think and hard) matter (such as bone) will block most of the x-ray particles, and will be represented on the film or computer as white.
- Metal and special dyes used to highlight areas of the body, will also appear white.
- Parts of the x-ray picture that are black, contain air, while other body matter, like muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as shades of grey.
How is an x-ray performed?
An x-ray is performed in a radiology department of a hospital or health center equipped to perform x-rays.
- Where the patient is placed, in front of the x-ray machine depends area of interest.
- Multiple x-rays may be taken from different angles.
- It is important for the patient to stay completely still, as like a photograph, motion causes blurry images on radiographs.
- Sometimes patients are asked to hold their breath during exposure, but it only last for roughly a second.
Preparing for an x-ray
- There is very little preparation involved in x-rays. There are a number of things to consider though.
- Inform the GP prior to the exam if you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or have IUD (Intra Uterine Device) inserted.
- Remove all jewelry and certain clothing. It is best to wear a hospital gown during the x-ray examination.
Types of x-rays
- Abdominal x-ray: Sometimes known as a KUB (Kidney, Ureter, and Bladder) This is an x-ray of the stomach (abdomen) and is used to diagnose or identify suspected problems in the abdomen or urinary system, such as a kidney stone or blockage in the intestine.
- Barium x-ray: Sometimes known as lower gastrointestinal series. It is a special x-ray of the large intestine, including the colon and rectum. A liquid called barium sulfate is placed in the rectum which liquid allows a greater contrast on the x-ray. The barium eventually passes out of the body.
- Bone x-ray: Probably the most common of all the x-rays, used mainly to detect fractures, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the bone.
- Chest x-ray: It may also be done if you have signs of lung cancer, or other chest or lung disease. Two views usually taken: one from back to front (posterior-anterior view), and one from one side to the other (lateral view).
- Dental x-rays: are pictures of the teeth and mouth.
- Lumbosacral spine x-ray: is an x-ray of the small bones (vertebrae) in the lower part of the spine (the lumbar region) and the sacrum, the area that connects the spine to the pelvis. It is used to help evaluate back injuries and persistent.
- Skull x-ray: is a picture of the bones surrounding the brain, including the facial bones, the nose, and the sinuses.
- Thoracic spine x-ray: is an x-ray of the twelve chest (thoracic) vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by flat pads of cartilage that cushion them. Taken to help evaluate bone injuries, disease of the bone, tumors of the bone, or cartilage loss.