What is an x-ray?

X-rays are a type of radiation imaging that creates pictures of the inside of your body, exposing differences in your bones and soft tissue. Varied amounts of radiation can pass through the different densities in parts of the body. Since bones are most dense with calcium, they show up white on an x-ray, while organs and soft tissue show as a gray color.

Why is an x-ray done?

Most commonly, x-rays are performed to diagnose or confirm:

  • bone breaks and fractures
  • lung conditions such as pneumonia
  • fluid in or around organs
  • tumors or masses, including mammograms to detect breast cancer
  • osteoporosis and arthritis

What to expect during an x-ray

Patients typically wear protective lead aprons to shield radiation from vital organs not being captured in the x-ray image. The amount of radiation from an x-ray is minimal, but this is just a precaution. A radiology technician will set up the imaging machine to cover the part of the body being examined. Some x-rays require a contrast dye, injected or swallowed, in order to provider further distinction in the x-ray images.