When you think of medical imaging, you might picture a patient lying in a tube while a machine takes pictures of their body. While this is one type of imaging, there are many others, including X-rays. X-rays are a common diagnostic tool used to help diagnose a range of conditions, from broken bones to pneumonia. In this article, we’ll explore what X-rays are, how they work, and when you might need one.
What are X-Rays?
X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation that can pass through the body. When X-rays pass through the body, they are absorbed by different structures in the body to varying degrees. This creates an image that shows the internal structures of the body, such as bones and organs.
X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a German physicist. Since then, they have become a widely used medical tool.
How Do X-Rays Work?
To get an X-ray, you will typically be asked to lie down or stand still while the X-ray machine is positioned over the area of your body that needs to be imaged. The machine will then send a small, controlled amount of radiation through your body. The radiation is absorbed by different structures in the body, creating an image on a detector on the other side of your body.
Because different structures in the body absorb radiation to varying degrees, X-rays can be used to create images of the internal structures of the body. Bones, for example, absorb more radiation than soft tissue, which makes them show up as white on X-ray images.
What are X-Rays Used For?
X-rays are a versatile diagnostic tool that can be used to help diagnose a range of conditions, including:
- Bone fractures
- Lung conditions, such as pneumonia or lung cancer
- Dental problems, such as cavities or impacted teeth
- Abdominal conditions, such as kidney stones or bowel obstructions
- Joint conditions, such as arthritis or bursitis
If your doctor suspects that you have a condition that requires an X-ray, they will be able to provide you with more information about what to expect and how to prepare for the procedure.
When Should You Get an X-Ray?
Not everyone needs an X-ray, and your doctor will only recommend one if they think it is necessary. Some common reasons for getting an X-ray include:
- You have sustained an injury, such as a broken bone or sprain
- You are experiencing pain or discomfort in a specific area of your body