If you have never had an X-Ray before, you might not know what to expect. This brief guide is designed to answer any questions you may have.
What is an X-Ray
An X-ray is a quick, painless test that produces images of the inside structures of the body – particularly the bones. It is non-invasive test and is commonly requested by doctors.
X-ray beams aren’t visible to the eye, they are passed through your body and the energy particles, called photons, are absorbed at different rates. This pattern shows up on x-rays, and dense tissue, such as bone, will block some of the x-rays making them show up in white and grey.
This technology has become a key element in helping doctors identify, diagnose, and treat a broad range of medical conditions, such as:
- Fractures and infections - bones, teeth etc
- Joints and bones – checking for osteoporosis, arthritis etc
- Enlarged heart - heart conditions
- Lung infections and conditions - pneumonia, tuberculosis or lung cancer
- Digestive tract problems
- Foreign objects – if something has been swallowed
What to expect
Having an X-ray is fast and easy and the whole process should not take longer than 45 minutes, depending on the area being x-rayed.
Once you check in at reception, you will be shown to a small changing room where you will be given a gown and asked to remove your clothing from the area of your body being x-rayed. You will also be asked to remove your jewellery, glasses and any metallic objects and place them in a private locker.
You will then be taken to the room that hosts the x-ray machine. The technician will talk you through the process and ask you some questions.
How is an X-ray done
You will be asked to either lie on a table or stand against a flat surface in order that the part of your body to be examined is positioned between the x-ray machine and the photographic plate. The technician will help get you into position and will offer pillows as props if needed.
The x-ray will last for a couple of seconds; the technician will ask you to hold your position and remain very still, you may also be asked you to hold your breath. If you move, it can affect the images, and they may need to be taken again. The technician will guide you on when to remain motionless.
The technician will leave the room to avoid unnecessary exposure. You will hear a beep that will indicate that the image has been taken.
The technician may reposition you in order to take additional images at different angles.
If your child is having an X-ray, you may be allowed to remain with them during the test to help keep him/her still. You will be asked to wear a lead apron.
Exposure to high levels of radiation can be very harmful. However, the level of radiation used in X-rays is safe because the dose is very small. There is very little risk with having one X-ray test.
What to expect afterwards
X-ray images can generally be viewed quickly. You will usually be able to go home directly after the x-ray. However, if the radiologist has seen any fractures or other serious abnormality, they may ask you to visit your doctor or the hospital straight after the test.
In normal circumstances, your radiologist will examine your x-ray films and send the film and report to your referring doctor.
What to Tell us
If you are pregnant, or if there is any chance that you could be pregnant, it is important that you tell your doctor and the technician before the x-ray. X-rays aren’t usually done on pregnant women. Though the risk of most diagnostic X-rays to an unborn baby is relatively small, your doctor may consider another imaging test, such as ultrasound.