Navigate Up

Men's Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

X-ray

X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light.

An x-ray machine sends individual x-ray particles through the body. The images are recorded on a computer or film.

  • Structures that are dense (such as bone) will block most of the x-ray particles, and will appear white.
  • Metal and contrast media (special dye used to highlight areas of the body) will also appear white.
  • Structures containing air will be black, and muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as shades of gray.

Alternative Names

Radiography

How the Test is Performed

The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office. How you are positioned depends on the type of x-ray being done. Several different x-ray views may be needed.

You need to stay still when you are having an x-ray. Motion can cause blurry images. You may be asked to hold your breath or not move for a second or two when the image is being taken.

The following are common types of x-rays:

How to Prepare for the Test

Before the x-ray, tell your health care team if you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or if you have an IUD inserted.

Metal can cause unclear images. You will need to remove all jewelry and you may need to wear a hospital gown.

How the Test will Feel

X-rays are painless. Some body positions needed during an x-ray may be uncomfortable for a short time.

Risks

X-rays are monitored and regulated so you get the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image.

For most x-rays, the risk of cancer or defects is very low. Most experts feel that the benefits of appropriate x-ray imaging greatly outweigh any risks.

Young children and babies in the womb are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays. Tell your health care provider if you think you might be pregnant. 

References

Geleijns J, Tack D. Medical physics: radiation risks. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 1.

Mettler FA, Jr. Introduction: an approach to image interpretation. In: Mettler FA, ed. Essentials of Radiology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 1.

Updated: 9/8/2014

C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com