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 especially good 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
By using oral, rectal, bladder or IV contrast materials, x-rays can also used be for other reasons, including:
- Looking at the stomach and intestines, gall bladder, or liver
- Small blood vessel disease
- Urinary tract or reproductive syatem abnormalities
- Locating tumors
Possible Complications ^
There are no direct complications associated with getting an x-ray. However, the effects of repeated radiation doses may build up in the body over a lifetime, increasing the risk of some cancers or thyroid problems. The risk is higher in children and women who are of childbearing age or pregnant. Protective lead aprons and collars are used to reduce radiation exposure.
Some tests and medical treatments cannot and should not be avoided. Talk to your dentist and doctor about the risks and benefits associated with the x-ray.
What to Expect ^
Prior to Test
Before your x-ray is taken, you may be asked to remove jewelry and 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.
Description of Test
A lead shield may be placed on parts of your body that are not being x-rayed. This will help reduce your exposure to radiation.
The x-ray device will be placed over the part of your body being studied. You will be asked to remain as still as possible while the images are taken. The x-ray 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 resume your daily activities after the x-ray is complete.
How Long Will It Take?
A few minutes
Will It Hurt?
The x-ray will be sent to a radiologist. 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.
Food and Drug Administration
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Patient safety: radiation dose. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/safety/index.cfm?pg=sfty_xray&bhcp=1. Accessed. Updated August 10, 2014. Accessed March 21, 2016.
Reducing radiation from medical x-rays. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm095505.htm. Accessed March 21, 2016.
X-ray (radiography). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/submenu.cfm?pg=xray. Accessed March 21, 2016.
X-rays. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays. Accessed March 21, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 3/21/2016