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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

X-Ray – Reasons, Procedure and Risks

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An X-ray is a simple imaging test and its application has been used for decades. X-ray is used to help doctors view the inside of the body without the use of incision. This helps doctors to better monitor, diagnose, and treat many medical issues easily.

We use different types of X-rays that are used for several purposes. For instance, your doctor may request a mammogram for breast examination, or an X-ray with a barium enema to properly examine your gastrointestinal tract.

There are risks associated with getting an X-ray, but for some people, the obvious benefits surpass the risks. Consult with your doctor to find out more before getting an X-ray done.

Why do you need an X-ray done?

Doctors would order an X-ray to;

  • Check for an underlying physical condition in the body
  • Check for areas where a patient is experiencing discomfort or pain
  • Observe the progression of diseases like osteoporosis

Health issues that may require an X-ray include:

Preparing for an X-ray?

X-rays are a standard medical procedure and in most cases, special steps would have to be taken to prepare for them. You may have to wear loose clothes, depending on where your doctor or radiologist needs to examine.

Getting comfortable is key, as it allows you to move around freely during the procedure. You may be required to change into the gown the medical facility provides to run the test. You may also be required to take off any jewelry and all forms of metallic items from your body.

It is critical that you inform your doctor or the medical practitioner of any implants. This is because these implants can alter the images created by the X-ray.

Sometimes, you may be required to take a contrast dye before the procedure. This is to help optimize the quality of the images. This dye may contain barium or iodine compounds, depending on why a patient needs an X-ray done.

Contrast dye may be administered in different ways, such as;

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  • Injecting it into the body
  • Drinking it
  • Given as an enema before the procedure

You may be asked to fast for some time before the procedure if an X-ray is needed to check your gastrointestinal tract. This means you have to avoid eating any food and limiting the drinking of certain liquids before the procedure.

Some doctors may require you to clear out your bowels using some medications.

How is an X-ray performed?

A radiologist or an X-ray technologist can carry out the procedure in a hospital’s radiology department, a medical facility that specializes in diagnostic procedures, or a dentist’s office.

Your radiologist or X-ray technician would direct you on how to position your body as soon as you are ready for the procedure. You may be asked to stand, sit or lay down during the test. This helps to capture the best images needed for the test.

An X-ray may also be performed with you standing in front of a special play that contains X-ray sensors or films.

In other cases, you may also be required to sit or lie on a specialized plate while a large camera that is connected to a steel arm is moved over your body to get X-ray images. It is imperative that you stay still while the machine is working.

This is so the images produced come out fine and don’t appear distorted.

Potential negative effects of an X-Ray?


X-rays work with the use of small amounts of radiation in creating images of the body. The amount of radiation exposure produced by X-ray is seemingly safe for most adults, but dangerous for developing babies.

You would have to inform your doctor if your pregnant or suspect to be pregnant before attempting an X-ray. Other forms of imaging may then be suggested, such as an MRI.

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You may also experience discomfort or pain during the procedure if you are doing an X-ray to help detect or diagnose a painful condition like a broken bone. You would be required to maintain certain stances while the images are being captured.

These positions may cause you discomfort and pain. Doctors usually recommend taking pain killers beforehand.

Contrast materials ingested before the test may cause the following side effects;

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Lightheadedness

On very rare occasions, the dye leads to a serious reaction like anaphylactic shock, cardiac arrest, or very low blood pressure. You must contact your doctor immediately if you start to feel something is off in your system.

What next after an X-ray?

You can change back into your clothes after your X-ray is done and the images have been collected. Your doctor may tell you to get a bed rest or go about your normal activities, depending on your physical condition.

Your result may be ready the same day as your test. After which your doctors review the X-ray report to further determine how to progress.

Additional tests may be required if the test doesn’t show enough information. Consult with your doctor for further information about specific conditions, diagnosis, and effective treatment options.

Have you ever had to have an X-ray done before? What did it feel like? Do you think they could have done the procedure differently and still get the same result? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.

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