An X-ray is a picture of the inside of your body. The X-ray may show bones, organs, or pockets of air or fluid. It may also show objects that have gotten into the body, like coins or nails. Any part of your body can be X-rayed, including your head, chest, belly, arms, and legs.
An X-ray is only one piece of information about your health. Your doctor considers many things when looking at an X-ray. These things may include your symptoms, your age, your weight, a physical examination, and your medical and family history.
That's why it's important to talk to your doctor. He or she can give you a clear sense of what the X-ray means for you. It's also a good idea to learn a little about X-rays in general.
X-rays don't show everything. Muscles and ropy fibres (ligaments) don't show up in a useful way on an X-ray. And some problems, like a bleeding stomach ulcer, don't show up on X-rays.
If your X-ray doesn't give a clear picture, you may need other tests. For example, you may need a CT scan, an ultrasound, an endoscopy, or an MRI scan.
Sometimes an X-ray can suggest a problem when there isn't one. Several things can cause an abnormal result, including small growths (nodules) which may not cause any harm. But without further tests, your doctor can't tell whether an abnormal finding is a harmless nodule, cancer, or something else.
Making sense of your X-ray involves more than just seeing the image. Your doctor can tell you what your X-ray means for you and your health. When you talk with your doctor, you can ask questions like:
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 know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: October 9, 2017
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Howard B. Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
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