Dr. Ira Shah
X-rays - Patient Education
What is an X-ray ?
It is a test used to look at the bones and internal organs of the body. It is done by exposing the body to a brief amount of electromagneticradiation and then producing an image over the film.

How do X-rays produce an image ?
As the radiation penetrates the body, it is absorbed in varying amounts by different body tissues. Bones absorb maximum X-ray radiation while lung tissue absorbs very little, allowing most of the X-ray beam to pass through the lung. Thus when one does the Chest X-ray the lungs appear black and bone appear white in color.

chest X-ray

Which are the commonly done X-rays ?
A chest X-ray is most commonly done X-ray. It helps to detect abnormalities in the lungs, but can also detect abnormalities in the heart, aorta, and the bones of the chest. It can pick up pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, cysts, infections, fractures and heart enlargement commonly. Other X-rays done commonly are the X-ray of the spine to spinal problems, X-rays of the limbs for fractures and X-ray of the teeth. Any part of the body can be X-rayed depending on what the doctor is suspecting.

What precautions should be taken while doing X- ray ?
Jewelry, any metallic pin, button is removed from the field of X-ray to avoid interference and improve accuracy of the interpretation. Patients are asked to take a deep breath and hold it during the chest X-ray in order to inflate the lungs to their maximum to increase the visibility of different tissues. X-rays can be taken from front to back

The chest X-ray procedure often involves a view from the back to the front of the body (PA view) as well as a side view (lateral view). Other X-rays are taken from front to back of the body (AP view). Occasionally, different angles are considered to interpret certain specific areas.

What are the risks of an x-ray ?
X-rays expose the patient to a minimum amount of radiation. We are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time. The average person in the U.S. receives an effective dose of about 3 mSv per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials and cosmic radiation from outer space. These natural "background" doses vary throughout the country. The radiation exposure from one chest x-ray as equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure one experiences from our natural surroundings in 10 days. Thus X-rays are quite safe when used with care. However X-rays should be avoided during pregnancy to avoid radiation to the fetus.

Is X-ray the same as CT scan or MRI ?
Though all these procedures are on the same principal of Radiation, the radiomagnetic fields are different and thus each gives different delineation. X-rays are very useful to detect bone and lung lesions. CT is very useful to pick up problems in the internal organs such as brain and abdomen. MRI can delineate anatomy as well as pathology in the organ well. Besides CAT scan and MRI can cause lot of radiation and thus are not done as routine tests.

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