X-ray of the pelvis information for adult patients

What is an X-ray?

This is a picture of the internal structures of the relevant part of the body, produced by exposure to a controlled source of X-rays and generally recorded on a sensitive photographic film. For example, being dense, the bones in the pelvis absorb X-rays more and show up white. Other organs and muscles show up on the film as different shades of grey. These days, not all X-ray images will be recorded on film, but may be kept in digital form, and shown on a computer screen. Despite all the newer, more sophisticated forms of scanning, an ordinary X-ray is still one of the most sensitive ways of detecting many problems, for example arthritis.

Do you need to make any special preparations?

Not generally when having a plain X-ray. However, any woman who is, or might be pregnant, should notify the radiology department in advance. Also please tell the radiology department if you have recently had a similar X-ray.

Can you bring a relative or friend?

Yes, but for safety they'll only be able to come into the x-ray room in special circumstances or in the case of young childen.

When you arrive

Please report to the reception desk in the radiology department. Once you have checked in, you will be shown where to wait until collected by the radiographer. Within the department the toilets and public telephones are signposted clearly, should you need to use them.

Upon collection

The radiographer will explain the procedure for your examination, and show you to a private cubicle where you will be asked to undress which may include removing any underwear below your waist. You will be asked to put on the hospital gown and dressing gown provided. However, you may prefer to bring your own dressing gown if you wish. You should place your clothes and valuables in a bag, which you will keep with you. Please tell the radiographer if you have any jewellery you cannot remove. You will be asked for the date of your last menstrual period. Please say if you are or might be pregnant.

Who will you see?

Generally you will be cared for by a radiographer, but your film will be examined and reported on later by the radiologist.

What happens during the X-ray?

You will be taken into the X-ray room where you will be asked to lie down on the X-ray table. Although the radiographer will go behind a screen, you will be seen and heard at all times should you have a problem. You will be asked to stay still and to hold your breath for a few seconds. You might hear a slight whirring noise from the machine, but you will be unaware of the fraction of a second when the X-ray is taken.

Will it be uncomfortable?

No. You will not feel any pain and apart from having to remain still for a short while, you experience no discomfort.

How long will it take?

The process of taking the film will last only a few minutes, but the radiographer may need to take further X-rays at different exposures or, different positions. This usually takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes, and unless you have had to wait, such as for emergency patients, your total time in the department should be around 20 minutes.

Are there any risks?

There are risks involved with X-rays, but the exposure is kept to the minimum required to obtain an image of the organ under investigation. This amounts to a level of radiation equivalent to that which we all receive from the atmosphere over a period of four months. You should not worry about this radiation from the X-ray and, as your doctor feels he needs to investigate a potential problem, the risk from not having the examination could be greater.

What if you are pregnant?

It is essential that you again tell the radiographer on arrival if you are, or might be, pregnant. The fetus is more sensitive to radiation and the doctor may decide you should not have the X-ray, and that it would be better for you to be offered an alternative approach.

Are there any side effects?

None. You may drive and return home or to work immediately afterwards.

When will you get the results?

The film will be examined shortly after your visit, and a report on the findings written. This may take a few days to reach your referring doctor, but is normally available in less a week. You should ask the radiographer or radiologist for some indication of the time that this will take.

If you have a query?

If you have a query about having the X-ray, please ring the radiology department between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Adapted from an original document compiled by the Royal College of Radiologists.