X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the inside of the body.
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Reasons for Test
X-rays can be taken of any part of the body. They are best for looking at teeth and injuries to bones.
X-rays can also be used to:
- Find an infection, especially pneumonia
- Look for evidence of arthritis
- Diagnose heart and large blood vessel problems
- Look for fluid in the lungs
- Look for problems in the abdomen
A special dye called contrast may also be used. This dye make x-rays more helpful at showing:
- Looking at the stomach and intestines, gallbladder, or liver
- Small blood vessel disease
- Urinary tract or reproductive system abnormalities
- Locating tumors
There are no immediate issues with an x-ray. However, radiation doses may build up in the body over a time. The more x-rays you have the more radiation there will be. This can increase the risk of some cancers or thyroid problems. The risk is higher in children and women who could get or are pregnant.
Lead aprons and collars are used during x-rays. They will help to lower the amount of radiation to the thyroid and pelvic area. Talk to your dentist and doctor about the risks and benefits of any x-ray.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Before your x-ray is taken, you may be asked to remove jewelry. You may need to put on a hospital gown.
Let your doctor know if you are or may be pregnant.
You may be given a type of contrast material. It may be a drink or given through IV.
Description of Test
A lead shield may be placed on other parts of your body. This will help reduce your exposure to radiation.
The x-ray device will be placed over one area of your body. You will be asked to remain as still as possible while the x-ray is taken. The device will send x-rays through your body. The x-rays will be captured on the other side of your body by a computer or on film.
You will be able to return to normal activities after the x-ray is complete.
How Long Will It Take?
A few minutes
Will It Hurt?
It may be a little uncomfortable to hold some positions. You will only need to hold it for a short time. The team will try to make you as comfortable as possible.
The x-ray will be sent to a doctor who specializes in reading x-rays. A report will be sent to you and/or your doctor.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
NIH Clinical Center
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association
Radiation dose in x-ray and ct exams. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/safety/index.cfm?pg=sfty_xray&bhcp=1. Accessed. Updated February 8, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2018.
Reducing radiation from medical x-rays. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm095505.htm. Accessed March 14, 2018.
X-ray (radiography). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/submenu.cfm?pg=xray. Accessed March 14, 2018.
X-rays. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays. Accessed March 14, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 10/2/2018