X-rays are quick, painless tests that produce images of structures inside your body including bones and some organs. They are often used to look for skeletal problems like fractures or dislocated joints. They can also help your doctor identify the source of pain or diagnose an illness or disease.
What Does an X-Ray Show?
X-rays produce still images of your body and can be used to detect a variety of conditions. In a special type of X-ray -- called a fluoroscopy -- your doctor can view structures inside your body as they move and function. Your doctor may order an X-ray to look for:
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Foreign bodies that may have been swallowed
- Bowel issues such as a blocked intestine
- Lung problems like pneumonia
Preparing for Your X-Ray
General X-rays do not require an appointment, and walk-ins are welcome with a doctor’s order. In most cases, there are no special preparations required for a general X-ray. Appointments are required for fluoroscopy. Some fluoroscopy exams may restrict eating or drinking beforehand. Your doctor will give you instructions based on the type of test you are getting.
You can wear loose, comfortable clothing, or you may be asked to change into a gown. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, or any metal objects that may interfere with the images.
During the X-Ray
You will be asked to lie on an exam table, stand against a flat surface, or sit. This depends on the part of your body being tested and the condition being assessed. Your technologist will help you get into the proper position. They may cover parts of your body not being examined with a lead blanket or apron to block radiation.
The X-ray machine will be focused on the part of the body being studied. You will need to stay still while images are taken, but you will not feel anything. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds. More than one X-ray might be taken to provide the information your doctor needs. Your entire exam should only take a few minutes.
X-Ray Safety and Comfort
Your doctor will order an X-ray only when it is necessary for a diagnosis and when the benefits outweigh potential risks. Some people are concerned about radiation exposure during an X-ray. The part of your body being examined will receive a very low level of radiation for a fraction of a second, and nearby areas of your body will be protected. We use the most advanced equipment to ensure that the minimum amount of radiation is used.
A parent or caregiver can stay in the exam room, if needed. They will be given a protective garment to wear during the X-ray and may be asked to assist. For instance, a child can sit on their parent’s lap during the exam.
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.
Experts in X-Ray Technology
Duke radiologic technologists -- also called radiographers -- are certified and registered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians (ARRT). Your images are interpreted by an accredited radiologist, a doctor trained in medical image interpretation who specialize in X-ray technology.
Getting Your Results
Once your X-ray is complete, your images are interpreted by a radiologist who is trained in medical image interpretation. Your report and images will be available through Duke MyChart for you to discuss with your doctor.
Since you will be able to access your results as soon as they are available, you may see them in MyChart before your doctor has had a chance to review them and explain them to you. If you prefer not to see your results before your doctor, let them know. They can request a delay in sending your information to MyChart until you have the chance to talk with them.