Getting an X-ray doesn't have to be a scary thing.
Before you get an xray, its important to inform your doctor or X-ray techologist prior to the exam if you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or have an IUD inserted. If abdominal studies are planned let them also know if you have had a barium contrast study (such as a barium enema, upper GI series, or barium swallow) or taken medications containing bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol) in the last 4 days, the test may be delayed until the contrast has fully passed.
Before the xray is taken, you will be asked to remove all jewelry, dentures, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images. Many X-rays can be taken in your regular clothes as long as they don’t interfere with the section of your body being X-rayed. However, some X-rays or places giving the test will require you to wear a hospital gown during the examination because any metal and even the material of certain clothing can obscure the images. In general, you undress whatever part of your body needs examination.
In some instances, your doctor will want you to have a contrast inside of you for purposes of the X-ray. If so, at this point you may be given a contrast medium. Contrast mediums, such as barium and iodine, help outline a specific area of your body on the X-ray image. You may be asked to swallow the contrast medium, or receive it as an injection or an enema.
A technologist, an individual specially trained to perform radiology examinations, will position your body to obtain the necessary views. He or she may use pillows or sandbags or other positioning devices to help you hold the proper position. Sometimes the x-ray is even taken with the patient standing upright, as in cases of knee x-rays.
A portable x-ray machine is a compact apparatus that can be taken to the patient in a hospital bed or the emergency room or a place that it’s become easier to keep the patient where he or she is rather than move them. The x-ray tube is connected to a flexible arm that is extended over the patient while an x-ray film holder or image recording plate is placed beneath the patient.
If a young child is having an X-ray, restraints or other immobilization techniques may be used to help keep him or her still so there won’t be a need for a repeat procedure. A parent or guardian may be allowed to remain with the child during the test and will typically be asked to wear a lead apron to shield any unnecessary exposure.
Once the technologist positions you, they will place an x-ray film holder or digital recording plate behind the area of the body being imaged. A lead apron may be placed over your pelvic area, breasts or entire torso when feasible to protect from any needless radiation.
The X-ray machine will then be positioned near the area of your body wanting to be seen on film. Do not worry if it gets extremely close or even touches you. The technologist is trained to position the machine in the best way possible to create the clearest images while reducing the radiation to a minimum.
Most bone x-rays require no special preparation other than keeping still and making sure no materials around the area will block, hide or blur the X-rays from a quality image. A bone x-ray examination is usually completed within five to 10 minutes but can take longer or even less time depending on the situation, but regardless the examination itself is a painless procedure.
Of course, you may experience some discomfort from the cool temperature in the examination room. You may also find holding still in a particular position and lying on the hard examination table is uncomfortable, especially if you are injured. A good technologist will assist you in finding the most comfortable position for you possible that still ensures x-ray image quality.
In all, the positioning of the patient, x-ray machine, whether a contrast will be needed and the type of film used depends on the type of study and area of your body that is of interest. Remember that multiple individual views may be requested, but again, the actual X-ray exposure is painless.
ABOVE: X-ray of the front of a head.
ABOVE: X-ray of thoracic spine.
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