An X-ray is a quick and painless test that produces images of the structures within your body, specifically your bones.
X-ray beams pass through your body and absorb varying amounts of energy depending on the density of the material they pass through. On X-rays, dense materials like bone and metal appear white. The air in your lungs appears black. Fat and muscle appear as grayscale images.
A contrast medium, such as iodine or barium, is injected into your body for some types of X-ray tests to provide more detail on the images.
Why is it done?
Many parts of the body are examined using X-ray technology.
Teeth and bones
- Infections and fractures Fractures and infections in bones and teeth are usually visible on X-rays.
- Arthritis. Arthritis can be detected using X-rays of your joints. X-rays taken over time can assist your doctor in determining whether your arthritis is worsening.
- Tooth decay. X-rays are used by dentists to check for cavities in your teeth.
- Osteoporosis. Bone density can be measured using specialized X-ray tests.
- Bone tumors. Bone tumors can be detected using X-rays.
Lung infections or conditions
Chest X-rays can reveal evidence of pneumonia, tuberculosis, or lung cancer.
Breast cancer Mammography is a type of X-ray test that is used to examine breast tissue.
- Heart enlargement X-rays clearly show this sign of congestive heart failure.
- Blood vessel occlusion. Injecting an iodine-containing contrast material can help highlight sections of your circulatory system so that they are visible on X-rays.
- Digestive tract issues Barium, a contrast medium administered as a drink or an enema, can aid in the detection of digestive issues.
- Consumed items An X-ray can reveal the location of something your child has swallowed, such as a key or a coin.
Exposure to radiation
Some people are concerned about the safety of X-rays because radiation exposure can cause cell mutations that lead to cancer. The tissue or organ being examined determines the amount of radiation you are exposed to during an X-ray. The sensitivity to radiation varies with age, with children being more sensitive than adults.
The radiation exposure from an X-ray, on the other hand, is generally low, and the benefits of these tests far outweigh the risks.
However, if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, you should consult your doctor before having an X-ray. Although most diagnostic X-rays pose little risk to an unborn baby, your doctor may advise you to undergo another imaging test, such as an ultrasound.
In some people, the injection of a contrast medium can result in the following side effects:
- A sensation of warmth or flushing
- A metallic flavor
Severe reactions to a contrast medium are rare, but they do occur, and they include:
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Anaphylactic reaction
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- X-rays are digitally saved on computers and can be viewed on-screen in minutes.