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Health Encyclopedia


An x-ray uses a small amount of radiation to create images of your bones and internal organs. An x-ray usually takes about 15 minutes.

Why An X-ray Is Done

An x-ray may help:

  • Find and assess broken bones (fractures) before and after treatment.

  • Look for and monitor infections or conditions that affect the joints or bones.

  • Check for problems in certain organs, such as the heart and lungs.

  • Check for the cause of certain symptoms, such as chest or abdominal pain.

  • Detect and diagnose bone, breast, or lung cancer.

  • Plan or assess the results of certain surgeries, such as spine or joint surgery.

  • Find the location of a foreign object that has been swallowed.

Let the technologist know if you:

  • Are taking any medications.

  • Have any medical conditions.

  • Are pregnant or may be pregnant.

  • Have had the same part of your body x-rayed before.

  • Have metal in the part of your body being x-rayed.

Before Your Test 

  • You may need to change into a hospital gown.

  • You may be asked to remove your watch, jewelry, and any other metal items that could show up on the x-ray.

During Your Test

  • You will lie, sit, or stand so that the part of your body being examined is underneath the x-ray equipment.

  • A lead apron may be draped over part of your body to shield it from radiation.

  • You will need to remain still while each x-ray is taken.

  • You may be asked to hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds as each x-ray is taken. You may also be asked to change positions so that more than one view may be taken.

X-ray of wrist showing bones highlighted in white.
Wrist x-ray

Man sitting next to table with hand and wrist underneath x-ray machine.
For best results, remain as still as you can during the x-ray.

After Your Test

  • There may be a short wait as the technologist reviews the images. In some cases, more images may need to be taken. The technologist will let you know when the x-ray is done.

  • Your healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up appointment. Contact your healthcare provider if you haven’t heard the results within 2 weeks.

  • Your next appointment is:__________________


Possible Risks and Complications of an X-ray

Having an x-ray exposes you to radiation. If an x-ray is ordered for you, your healthcare provider has decided that its value outweighs any risks.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011

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