X-Ray – What to Expect

An X-ray is a non-invasive, safe, and painless procedure. Knowing what to expect during your exam will help you to be prepared and feel at ease.

What Is an X-ray?

An x-ray, also known as a radiograph is a procedure to help physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Getting an x-ray involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Denser materials, like bones, will appear a more stark white, while the air in your lungs, for example, is black. This makes X-Rays especially useful for identifying bone breaks, fractures, and dislocated joints. They can also be used to help detect various cancers, sources of abdominal pain, or tooth decay.

Before Your Exam

You will be asked to remove all metal such as jewelry, belts, and glasses before the exam to ensure the best quality images. If you have or may have metal in your body, such as an implant or medical device, it is important to let your radiologist know. None of this will interfere with the test, and the test will not interfere with your implant or device, but these will interfere with the final images.

Depending on the part of the body being examined or clothing worn, you will be asked to change into an exam gown. Try to avoid articles with metallic elements, such as zippers or buttons.

Your exam may or may not require fasting prior to your arrival. If fasting, or avoiding certain kinds of food and drink are required, your radiologist will let you know before your appointment.

In most cases, you will not need to make any special preparations for your x-ray. Any special instructions will be detailed by your radiologist when you schedule your exam.

What Is Contrast?

Some x-rays require contrast, a dye that helps improve the quality of the images. Contrast is given intravenously or as a drink. If your exam requires contrast, you will be notified when you schedule your appointment and you may be asked to fast before your exam.

Contrast can sometimes have side effects, such as producing a metallic taste, feeling warm or flushed, nausea, lightheadedness or in some cases itching or hives. These will pass, but please inform your radiologist if any of these symptoms arise.

In very rare cases, contrast dyes can cause anaphylactic shock, cardiac arrest, or severely low blood pressure. If you have a history of any of these, please notify your radiologist before the contrast is administered for a proper risk management assessment.

What to Expect During the Exam

The exam is painless. Your technician will help you get into the best position for the x-ray depending on the part of the body being examined. Pillows or sandbags may be used to assist in this.

You may be given a lead apron or blanket to cover parts of the body that are not being examined to prevent unnecessary exposure.

Once the exam begins, you will need to stay very still to ensure high-quality images. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds to prevent the images from turning out blurry.

Depending on the part of the body being imaged and the number of x-rays needed, your exam should take between a few minutes, or up to a half hour or more for more complex exams.

If the subject of the exam is a child, it is advisable to discuss what will take place during the exam so that he or she knows what to expect. With young children especially emphasize the importance of remaining still during the exam. It may help to practice this at home before your child’s appointment.

What to Expect After the X-ray

After your exam, you can return to your normal activities right away. The images will be sent to your doctor who will interpret them and contact you with the results after a few days.

If your exam included the use of contrasts, please be advised to drink plenty of fluids to help flush the chemicals from your body. In the case of injected dyes, please notify your doctor if there is any lingering pain or redness at the injection site, and ask about specific warning signs to watch for.

If a follow-up appointment with your doctor or any additional exams is needed, your doctor will let you know. If a follow up is ordered, it is important to schedule it as directed by your doctor.

If you have any questions or concerns before or after your exam, call us and we will be happy to help.

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