X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs. Standard X-rays are done for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors or bone injuries.
X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body structures onto specially-treated plates (similar to camera film). It makes a "negative" type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film). Instead of film, X-rays may also be made by using computers and digital media.
When the body undergoes X-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. Images are produced in degrees of light and dark, depending on the amount of X-rays that penetrate the tissues. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.
X-rays of the arms and legs are often used as the first step in diagnosing injuries. X-rays may also be used to check for other problems in the bones and/or soft tissues.
X-rays of the arm, leg, hand, foot, ankle, shoulder, knee, hip or hand may be done to assess the bones for injuries. This includes fractures or broken bones. X-rays can also show evidence of other injuries or conditions, such as infection, arthritis, tendinitis, bone spurs, tumors, or birth defects. X-rays may also be used to see bone growth and development in children.
X-rays of joints may be done to check for damage to soft tissues, such as cartilage, muscle, tendons, or ligaments. Joint X-rays may also help check for fluid in the joint, and other abnormalities of the joint such as bone spurs, narrowing of the joint, and changes in the structure of the joint.
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an X-ray of the arms and legs.
You may want to ask your doctor about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray exams and/or treatments over a long period.
If you are pregnant or think you might be, tell your doctor. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If it is necessary for you to have an X-ray of the extremities, special precautions will be made to minimize the radiation exposure to the fetus.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
An X-ray may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
Generally, an X-ray procedure of the extremities follows this process:
While the X-ray procedure itself causes no pain, moving a potentially injured body part may cause some discomfort or pain. The radiologic technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
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