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X-Ray - Types, Procedure, Cost And Side Effects

Last Updated: May 11, 2022

What is an X-ray?

A very handy imaging test, X-rays have been used for medical purposes for a very long period of time. It helps a doctor study the bone structure and muscles of the body, without performing a surgical procedure. It allows diagnosis of a number of minor conditions, which can then be effectively treated.

It is generally a very quick procedure and quite painless. X-rays are mostly used to check for broken bones. But they are also done to detect other conditions and health problems. For instance, the doctor may recommend a mammogram if he/she suspects breast cancer. Similarly, an X-ray of the chest may be done to detect pneumonia. An X-ray is also done to check how well a treatment is progressing. A doctor may recommend detecting various problems like arthritis, infections, tooth decay, lung problems as well as locating swallowed items.

The radiation that one is exposed to when he/she gets an X-ray done is generally in very small amounts and therefore does not cause much damage. The test does pose to be risky but in the case of most individuals, the benefits of the test outweigh than the potential risks.

How do xrays work?

To create a radiograph, a patient is positioned so that the portion of the body being scanned is between an x-ray source and an x-ray detector with the region of the body being scanned between the two. When the machine is powered on, x-rays flow through the body and are absorbed in varying amounts by various tissues based on their radioloquecy.

The density and the atomic number of the materials being imaged are used to describe radiological density.

As a result of this property, bones absorb x-rays fast and give great contrast on an x-ray detector. As a result, against a dark backdrop, bone structures look whiter on a radiograph than on other tissues.

X-rays, on the other hand, can easily pass through less radiologically dense tissues like fat and muscle, as well as sir-filled cavities like the lungs. On a radiograph, these forms may be seen in grayscale.

Summary: The x-main ray's role is to detect the area's radioactive density. The higher the density and atomic number in the imaging region, the more vivid the findings will be.

What are the types of X-rays?

X-ray types:

  • Kidney, Ureter and Bladder X-ray: This X-ray is used to examine the abdominal areas and the causes of abdominal pain and is also known as KUB X-Rays. This even shows if there are any changes in the structure of the urinary bladder.
  • Teeth and bones X-rays: This type of x-rays gives a detailed structure of bones and teeth and helps to detect the problems deeply. The even shows the supporting tissues of the mouth and a dentist even looks at the roots of the tooth, any decay or cavity, developing teeth and structure of the bone areas.
  • Chest X-rays: This is a small test in which there is a use of radiation and the images of bones, tissues, organs of the body are produced. A chest X-ray is prescribed if you have chest pain, fever, breathing problems, or persistent coughing. This helps in the quick analysis of the problems and the aids are given accordingly.
  • Lung X-rays: The lung X-rays are done to compare the upper, middle and lower parts of the lungs. In this lung asymmetry of the lung, density is checked if there is abnormal whiteness or blackness and once the asymmetry is spotted then it is decided which side needs to be treated.
  • Abdomen X-ray: This is the test done to check the structures of the abdomen and the X-rays show small and large intestine, stomach and liver. Abdomen x-rays are the first types which also examine the problems of nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and swelling.

What are the 2 types of X-rays?

The two types of X-rays are:

  1. Characteristic radiation
  2. Bremsstrahlung radiation

How is an X-ray is performed?

There are no special steps required for one to prepare for this test. Depending on the part of the body that needs to be X-rayed, one should put on loose clothes to be comfortable. Ensure that you are not wearing any jewellery during the time of the procedure. Patients are generally asked to change into a hospital gown before it is done. Depending on the kind of X-ray being done a dye may also be administered for clarity of images.

The technician doing the test should be informed if you have any metal implants from previous surgery. The implants can come in the way and make the images blurry. It is generally done at a hospital’s department of radiology, or a diagnostic centre. Once you have changed for the test, the technician will guide you to position the part of your body which has to be X-rayed. You will be asked to stand, lie down or sit depending on the requirements. While the images are being taken one should stay still to ensure clarity of the picture. The test is completed once the technician is satisfied with the images that he has taken.

Who needed an X-ray?

If a person has a broken bone in the body or if there are any abnormal activities going inside the body so the person has to undergo an X-ray. It is a quick, easy and painless process but an effective way to examine the whole body of a person. An X-ray is prescribed by the doctor by doing a physical test on the person’s body or if you are experiencing any unexplainable problem. The image of the affected area is produced and X-ray is even done to detect pneumonia.

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Which problems can be detected through X-rays?

  • Problems in chest
  • Condition of hearts like viewing the shape and sizes or heart failure
  • Fractures in bone
  • Breast cancer
  • Bone tumours
  • Complications in tooth-like decay or cavity
  • Chronic diseases like lung cancer, pneumonia, pulmonary diseases, etc.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

An X-ray makes use of radiation to take images of the body. Very small quantity of radiation is used during the test, which is quite safe for adults but can be highly damaging to a foetus. Thus, pregnant women should inform their doctors if they are asked to undergo an X-ray. An alternative form of imaging test, like an MRI, can be opted for in this case.

What are the potential side effects of an X-ray?

In case the X-ray is being performed to detect a broken bone, slight pain and discomfort may be experienced during the test. This is because one needs to hold the body very still during this imaging test.

If a dye is administered for an X-ray, some side effects may occur, such as- itching, hives light-headedness, feeling nausea and a bad taste in the mouth. The dye can also lead to severe side-effects like an anaphylactic shock or a heart attack. But such reactions are very rare. If you are showing symptoms of either of the severe reactions get in touch with your doctor immediately.

What are the uses of X-ray?

  • Broken bones: One of the most primary uses of X-rays is to examine the broken bones. This is the most common mechanism which helps in taking the photo of the affected part of the patient's body. The rays first pass through your skin which is an easy process but take time to penetrate through your bone thus makes bone look lighter in colour. Thus by seeing the result, the doctor can prescribe effective treatment plans.
  • Radiation therapy: X-rays are also used in radiation therapy and play an important role in fighting against cancer by killing the cancer cells or shrinking the size of tumours. Patients undergo the treatment from outside the body or by inserting radioactive material inside the body in the very close proximity of the cancer cells. Though this therapy is dangerous for health 50% of people undergo this process.
  • Security system: X-rays nowadays are also used as the security system at the airports, metro, railway stations, etc for checking the baggage or any other dangerous items.

How long it takes to perform an X-ray?

The average procedure takes from a few minutes to no more than 15 minutes depending upon the part.

What happens after the X-ray procedure?

Once the X-ray is done and the patient has changed into his own clothes, the doctor assesses his/her condition. Accordingly, he/she is advised to return back to his routine activities or take some rest. Once the results are in, the images are reviewed and depending on the severity of the problem, a relevant treatment is advised. Additional tests may also be advised after the reports are in. These tests include other types of imaging scans like MRI and blood tests.

X-ray price depends on various factors like the type, part of the body, lab reputation and location. On an average cost about Rs 250- Rs 2000 in India.

What are the alternatives to the X-rays?

An ultrasound test and MRI scan are effective alternatives to an X-ray. Test like a CT scan, MRI or ultrasounds can be done instead of X-rays as these tests use magnets, sound waves or x-rays for creating the picture.

How long before X-ray can you eat?

As per the medical norms, a person is not allowed to consume anything during the night if he has to undergo x-ray in the morning. Because some conditions may be concealed by meals, the stomach must be fully empty. Brush the patient's teeth, but do not consume a single drop of water.

It is not a good idea to smoke or chew gum since this can cause excess stomach fluids to flow.

Summary: Do not eat before x ray for at least 8-10 hrs. It is important to brush your teeth, do not chew or smoke anything to avoid the excess flow of juices.

Does food show up on X ray?

x ray is designed to print a detailed scan of what is inside our body. If a person has undergone X-ray post-consumption, the X-ray will scan that too. It is advised to go empty stomach for imaging testing as it will give a clear scan.

Summary: X-rays are used to create a detailed image of what is going on within our bodies. If a person has had an X-ray after consuming anything, the X-ray will scan that as well.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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