What are X-rays?:

X-rays use high energy rays to take pictures of the inside of your body. They can look at bones to show breaks and other joint problems. X-rays can also show changes in tissues and organs, such as the breasts and lungs.

There are different types of tests using X-rays, including

  •         Chest X-rays to show fluid, signs of infection, an enlarged heart or tumours in the chest
  •         X-rays of the bones to show breaks, degenerative changes, infection or tumours
  •         X-rays of the breasts (mammograms)
  •         Dental X-rays to look at the teeth and jaw
  •         Real time X-ray screening (fluoroscopy) to help doctors put in stents or wires, or to look at blood vessels (angiography), or            to show the outline of body structures (barium X-rays)
  •         CT scans are a series of X-rays of an area of the body to build up a 3 dimensional (3D) picture

Before your X-ray:

You can eat and drink normally before an X-ray, except if you are having barium X-rays.
After checking in with the receptionist in the clinic or department, you usually have to wait until the radiographer calls your name. They will show you to a cubicle where you can change. For most X-rays you need to undress down to your underwear and put on a hospital gown. Women may need to remove their bra as the metal clips and underwire can show up on the X-ray. The radiographer will tell you exactly what you need to wear. You should take off all your jewellery in the area being X-rayed, so that it doesn’t show up.

During the test:

Depending on the area of your body being X-rayed, you may need to stand against the X-ray machine, or sit or lie on the X-ray couch.
The radiographer will take a couple of minutes to get you into the right position. They line the machine up to make sure it is in the right place. You must keep still, but can breathe normally.
The radiographer will then go behind a screen to take the X-ray. They can still see and hear you. They may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while they take the X-ray.
X-rays are painless. You won’t feel or see anything. It only takes a fraction of a second to take. You usually need to have more than one X-ray taken from different angles. So the whole process may take a few minutes.
After the X-ray you can get dressed and go home. The clinic will process the X-rays and send them to your GP or specialist (depending on who asked for them).

Possible harmful effects:

Many people worry about the possible effects of radiation. But the amount you receive is small and doesn't make you feel unwell. The risk of the radiation causing any problems in the future is very small. The benefits of finding out what is wrong will far outweigh any risk there may be from radiation.
If you are concerned about the possible effects of X-rays, you can talk to your doctor. The ovaries and testicles are particularly sensitive to radiation and you may have lead blocks to shield them if they are in the X-ray field.
It is very important to tell your doctor if you think you may be pregnant, as the X-rays could affect your developing baby. If you can’t delay the X-ray, the radiographer may be able to shield the baby with a lead block.

 Your results:

Ask your doctor when and how you will get your results. If it is an emergency X-ray, the clinic will usually send the results to your doctor straight away. If it's not urgent, it may take 7 to 14 days.
If your GP has arranged the X-ray, the radiologist will write a report and send it to your GP surgery. If your hospital doctor has arranged it, you may have to wait until your next appointment at the hospital to get the results.