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Adult X-Ray: About This Test

What is it?

An X-ray is a picture of the inside of your body. Depending on the part of your body to be X-rayed, the X-ray may show bones, organs, foreign objects, or pockets of air or fluid. Any part of your body can be X-rayed, including your head, chest, belly, arms, and legs.

Why is this test done?

Doctors use X-rays to help find out what is wrong, what is causing pain, or where a foreign object may be located in your body.

Your doctor may also order an X-ray after placing a tube in your body as part of your treatment. The X-ray can help show if the tube is in the right position.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • Tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. An X-ray is usually not done during pregnancy, but the chance of harm to the baby is very small. If you need an X-ray, you will wear a lead apron to help protect your baby.

What happens before the test?

  • If your belly is being X-rayed, you may be asked to empty your bladder before the test.
  • You will need to take off jewellery that might be in the way of the X-ray picture.
  • You may need to take off all or most of any clothes around the area being X-rayed. You may be given a gown to wear during the test.
  • A lead shield may be placed over your pelvic area to protect it from radiation.

What happens during the test?

  • More than one X-ray view may be taken, sometimes from different angles.
  • You will need to hold very still while the X-ray is taken. A padded brace, foam pads, a headband, or sandbags may be used to hold your body in place while the pictures are taken, depending on what part of your body is being X-rayed.
  • You will not feel pain from the X-ray itself. The X-ray machine's surface may feel hard, and the room may be cool. If you have pain from an injury, you may feel some discomfort if you need to hold a certain position.

What else should you know about the test?

  • X-rays don't show everything. Muscles and ligaments don't show up in a useful way on an X-ray. An abdominal X-ray cannot find certain problems, such as a bleeding stomach ulcer.
  • If your X-ray doesn't give a clear picture, more specific X-rays, such as a CT scan, or other tests like an ultrasound or MRI scan may be done.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the part of your body being X-rayed. You might be asked to stay longer if a picture needs to be retaken.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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