X-Ray Basics


When an X-ray is taken of your affected body part, external radiation passes through your body, and then an image is transferred onto a plate or digital media. The plate is specially treated and is very similar to a camera negative. If the image was taken on digital media, the image is transferred to a computer. The aspect of an X-ray can allow your physician to locate abnormalities within your body. For example, healthy tissue appears as dark masses on an X-ray, but a cancerous tumor appears whiter.


The areas of your body that will be receiving external radiation for an X-ray will remain exposed. For example, for a dental X-ray your technician will cover your torso, which leaves your head exposed. Your technician may then either place a film in your mouth, or a digital sensor in your mouth, which will then record an image of your teeth.


When you undergo an X-ray, your technologist will take precautions to cover areas of your body that will not be receiving any radiation. In many instances, an apron of lead will be placed over your sex organs. According to the Mayo Clinic, receiving high doses of radiation can cause egg damage in women and sperm damage in men. It is also important to tell your technician if you're pregnant when undergoing an X-ray. If you sustain high doses of radiation, it is possible for your fetus to suffer from the radiation.


Contrasts may sometimes be used to provide detailed images of your body. Prior to an X-ray, you could be given a barium contrast or iodine. A barium can be given with an enema, and iodine is usually injected. These types of mediums help to outline specific areas of your body such as your blood vessels if you suffer from heart disease. If you have heart disease, your blood vessels will appear opaque with a contrast.


There is a fear that receiving an X-ray can result in cancer. An X-ray contains low doses of radiation, which can't cause the mutation of your cells. Today's technology provides patients with low radiation. After the procedure has been conducted, your body remains free of any radiation. Keep in mind that your body would have to sustain very high levels of radiation for any damage to occur to your body. X-rays use a source known as electromagnetic radiation to produce images of internal organs, teeth, or bones. X-rays are designed to provide a quick diagnosis, such as of a broken bone. An X-ray can even help determine if cancer is present within your body. X-rays are painless, and when taken by a trained professional do not pose any health risks.