What are diagnostic X-rays?
X-rays as a form of energy, are one of the oldest forms of radiological techniques. X-rays are higher energy which occurs naturally, being emitted from outer space as well as terrestrial objects such as rocks.
X-rays can penetrate your bodies, passing through various tissues and organs at different intensities to produce images that will help doctors diagnose diseases, monitor treatment, and guide certain procedures.
When are X-rays useful for Orthopaedic Conditions?
X-rays are very valuable in orthopaedic evaluation. Doctors will require an X-ray to evaluate your joints and spine for injury, as well as your bones for fractures or dislocations.
In addition, bone infections are easily detected by an X-ray, hence are usually the first imaging modality to be requested for by your doctor to evaluate a bone infection. Chronic bone diseases such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed and monitored with an X-ray.
Furthermore, because of the distinct image of bones on X-rays, abnormal curvatures of bones can be detected with an X-ray.
Tissues such as nerves and discs between the bones of the spine which absorb radiation cannot be viewed on an X-ray, so diseases involving these tissues such as disc herniation or nerve damage resulting from bone compression cannot be evaluated with an X-ray.
How is an X-ray Performed?
To have an X-ray, little or no preparation is needed. It could be done as an outpatient procedure or as part of your stay in the hospital. It is performed by an X-ray technologist or radiographer and interpreted by a radiologist, a doctor who is trained in performing and interpreting radiological images.
The X-ray technologist would ask you to take off your clothes and wear a gown during the procedure. You may also be asked to remove jewellery, eye glasses, or any metal object you may have on. These objects may distort the X-ray images.
The equipment used for this procedure is a box-like apparatus which contains the X-ray film, a plate which records the X-ray images. The X-ray machine which produces the radiation is placed about six feet away.
How you would be positioned depends on what area of your body is to be viewed. If you have the injuries in your hip, thigh, or shin bones, you may have to lie down on a table, while the radiation source is placed above the area to be viewed and the X-ray plate below the table.
For chest X-rays, you would stand with your hands on your hips and your chest against the box-like plate. If you cannot stand, you will lie on the table.
You would be asked to hold very still and take deep breaths while the images are being taken to avoid having blurred images. The technologist usually goes behind a wall or in another room to activate the X-ray machine.
X-rays are painless procedures and are usually completed within 15 minutes.
How does an X-ray work?
X-rays are a form of radiation, they pass through most objects. Once it is aimed and passed through a certain part of the body, it can produce images of that part of the body on a photographic film.
Different parts of the body absorb radiation in different degrees. Structures in the body which allow radiation to pass through them appear grey or black on an X-ray film. Bone, however, contains calcium which blocks radiation, allowing none to pass through, therefore appearing white. This appearance makes bones very visible and distinct on X-ray films.
Those structures which appear grey absorb a little radiation and allow much to pass through them, while those that appear black, such as those which contain air, do not absorb any radiation.
What Risks are Associated with an X-ray?
Although no radiation remains in a patient’s body after an x-ray examination, there is a small risk of cancer from exposure to too much radiation. However, the benefits of an X-ray outweigh the risks.