Preparing for your x-ray
X-rays use radiation to produce images of the inside of your body. They’re carried out by radiographers (health professionals trained to perform imaging techniques). Doctors use x-rays to help diagnose and monitor many different health conditions, including problems with your lungs, bowel or heart. An x-ray image of your chest may show whether you have an infection in your lungs. x-rays are also commonly used to look for fractures in your bones after a fall or injury, as well as other joint problems such as arthritis.
You usually have an x-ray as an out-patient procedure in the radiology or imaging department of a hospital, health clinic or dental practice. Depending on which part of your body is being x-rayed, you may wish to wear clothing that’s easy to remove.
Your radiographer will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after an x-ray. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask. No question is too small. It’s important that you feel fully informed so you’re happy to go ahead with the x-ray.
What are the alternatives to an x-ray?
Sometimes a different type of imaging test may be more appropriate for you. This usually depends on which part of your body needs to be looked at. Alternative tests include an ultrasound scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan. Your doctor will discuss with you which test is most suitable.
What happens during your x-ray?
X-rays usually take only a few minutes. You may be asked to remove your clothing, put on a hospital gown and take off your jewellery before an X-ray. This will depend on the area of your body that’s being exposed to the radiation. You’ll usually be taken to a private cubicle so that you can change.
Your radiographer will help you to get into the right position on the X-ray machine. Or you may be asked to lie down on an X-ray table or sit in a chair beside the table. It may take a few minutes to get you into the right position. During the X-ray you’ll need to keep still. Sometimes, especially if you’re having a chest X-ray, you’ll need to take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds.
Your radiographer will stand behind a screen to use the X-ray machine. But they’ll be able to see and hear you at all times. They may need to take more than one X-ray, or X-rays at different angles. You may have to get into a number of slightly different positions for this.
The images will then be sent to a Reporter (a specialist who uses imaging methods to diagnose medical conditions).