An X-ray is a painless, common procedure designed to help your doctor look inside your body to diagnose a condition. It is a particularly effective technique of viewing your bones and helpful in diagnosing a wide range of conditions.
Your X-ray will generally be carried out by a radiographer, although they can also be done by a host of healthcare professionals.
Why is an X-ray Performed?
X-rays can be requested for the diagnosis of a wide range of conditions. They are most commonly associated with bone or joint problems, however, they are sometimes requested for soft tissue issues as well. Examples of conditions that might require X-ray provision include:
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- Bone tumours (cancerous and non-cancerous)
- Leg length measurements
- Lung problems including lung cancer and pneumonia
- Heart issues (CXRs)
- CMR and Ultrasound Echo for heart concerns
Different types of X-rays are used for different purposes. The most common use of X-rays is to check for fractures and broken bones but doctors may use X-rays to help find an object that has been swallowed, perform a mammogram (which use X-rays) to help locate breast cancer or order an X-ray with a barium enema to have a more detailed look at your gastrointestinal tract.
How do X-rays Work?
X-rays are standard procedures typically taking just a few minutes, although more complex procedures that use a contrast medium generally take longer. They use small amounts of radiation to create images of your body. The level of radiation exposure is considered safe for the majority adults; however, if you are pregnant, tell your doctor and they may suggest a different imaging method, such as an MRI scan.
The doctor may ask you to remove any jewellery or other metallic items from your body prior to your X-ray being taken. Your body will be positioned to make sure the area needing to be X-rayed is easily accessible sometimes, requiring support to help keep the position.
X-rays are a type of radiation that pass through the body; they cannot be felt or seen by the naked eye. The X-rays are absorbed at different rates depending on the density of the part of the body they pass through. Bone and metal show up as white; air in your lungs shows up as black and fat and muscle appear as grey. A detector on the other side of the part of the body being scanned picks up the X-rays once they have passed through and converts them into an image. You will need to avoid moving and sometimes hold your breath so that the image does not blur; this will ensure it is as clear as possible.
If you are undergoing an X-ray to examine your gastrointestinal tract you may be required to fast for a certain amount of time leading up to the examination.
Some X-rays require the patient to take a contrast agent before the procedure. A contrast X-ray works by administrating a dye such as iodine or barium to improve the images, allowing the radiologist to assess internal structures that are not clearly seen using a conventional X-ray method.
X-raying a Child
If a younger child requires an X-ray, restraints or other methods may be required to stop them from moving, preventing the need to repeat the procedure. You may be allowed to stay with your child during the examination, however if you do, you may be asked to wear a lead apron to protect you from unnecessary exposure.
Complications and Risks
You generally won’t experience any complications following a standard X-ray but you may experience some temporary side effects if a contrast agent was used during your X-ray such as:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Pain or burning at the point of injection
- Sickness (feeling nauseous or physically being sick)
- Allergic reaction (hives or itchy eyes)
Barium may cause your faeces to turn a whitish colour for a few days following the examination and in some cases, people may develop a rash or feel nauseous after receiving an iodine injection. These reactions are typically mild and do not last very long.
Following your X-ray, you will usually be able to go home pretty much immediately (unless your doctor would like to discuss your diagnosis) and continue your day to day activities as normal with no recovery necessary.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your X-rays treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread the cost of your treatment over a number of months. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience