What are X-rays?

X-rays are a special form of electromagnetic waves that fall under the classification of radiation. It is a widely utilized technique to image various structures in the body. X-rays are therefore helpful in diagnosing a number of different clinical conditions and even ruling out a number of different diagnoses.

When is an X-ray Performed?

X-rays are typically performed in patients who present to the hospital with symptoms of some sort or those who come to the outpatient clinic with specific complaints. For example, a patient who arrives at the hospital with symptoms of cough and breathlessness will benefit from a chest X-ray. A patient who has suffered a fall and has been having pain around the hip joint will benefit from a hip X-ray that can help diagnose or rule out a fracture.

Radiation Concerns

X-rays as such do not involve a great amount of exposure to radiation. However, in patients who are undergoing X-rays, protective gear may be used to cover other parts the body. For example, in pregnant women who definitely require a chest X-ray, the abdomen may be covered with a lead-lined sheet that can prevent exposure of the growing fetus to X-ray radiation.

Performing an X-ray

As a patient undergoing an X-ray, there are no specific requirements that would prevent a patient from having one. The X-ray will be performed in a special room that is built to certain specifications. The patient will be placed in position and the part of the body that requires an X-ray will be exposed to the required amount of radiation. An X-ray machine can vary in size and portable ones tend to be a lot smaller. An X-ray film is placed behind the part of the body that needs imaging and once X-rays are passed through that part of the body, the image will form on the X-ray film. The test only takes a few minutes to perform and is painless. Once concluded, the patient can be either sent back to the ward or discharged home.

Risks of the Procedure

There is a very small risk of exposure to radiation following an X-ray. However, in the grand scheme of things, having a single X-ray does not cause any problems at all. In patients who have chronic diseases that require multiple X-rays, the radiation level must be kept note of.

Benefits of the Procedure

An X-ray can provide a plethora of information to the physician. For example, a simple chest X-ray can inform the doctor about the state of the bones including the ribs, the size of the heart, the position of the diaphragm, the position of the stomach, the anatomy of the blood vessels and the presence or absence of certain specific features suggestive of an infection or something more sinister.


An X-ray is an extremely useful diagnostic test that is commonly performed in almost all patients admitted to hospital. It provides valuable information and can guide further management of patients.