What is an X-ray?
An X-ray exam uses small doses of radiation to produce pictures of internal tissues, bones and organs. X-rays are the most commonly used — and also the oldest — form of medical imaging. They are performed for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors or bone injuries.
Preparing for an X-ray exam
Before your X-ray, you will be asked to remove all jewelry, eyeglasses and any other metal or electronic objects from your body as these objects interfere with the quality of the images.
Further preparation for your X-ray depends on which part of your body will be examined.
Generally, the portion of your body that is being examined will be undressed; you may be asked to wear a hospital gown for your comfort. You may also be asked to wear a lead apron as a precaution to shield the areas of your body not being examined from X-ray exposure. Some exams require you to be given a liquid contrast medium or dye, such as barium or iodine, to enhance specific areas of your body.
For your safety
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Your doctor may decide to postpone the exam or use an alternative exam, such as ultrasound, to reduce the possible risk of exposing your baby to radiation.
Some X-ray exams require the patient to receive a contrast medium (usually a liquid such as barium or iodine) that is ingested or injected to help differentiate structures or fluids within your body to create a better image. If you have allergies or asthma, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast. Most reactions result in itchiness or hives. If you have asthma and have an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, you may experience an asthma attack. In very rare instances, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in your throat or other areas of your body. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions also increase your risk of reaction to the contrast medium. Tell your technologist or doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms during or after your exam. Our staff and physicians are prepared should any type of emergency situation occur.
What to expect during an X-ray exam
Typically, X-rays take only a few minutes when done without contrast. X-rays performed with a contrast substance may take up to 20 minutes or more.
Our technologist will prepare and guide you through your X-ray by explaining the procedure and positioning you to ensure the highest quality images are obtained from your exam.
You will lie on a table, or stand, or sit between an X-ray machine and the X-ray plate. The technologist supervises the X-ray from a shielded room and can always see and hear you.
Normally, the only discomfort you may experience is the hardness of the X-ray table or the coolness of the room, which is necessary to keep the X-ray equipment from overheating.
When your exam is complete you can leave and resume regular activities. If you received a contrast medium, you will be given instructions for removing the contrast from your body. This will likely include drinking lots of fluids.
A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.