Your X-ray 

Following your consultation at LBSM, you may have been referred for an X-ray.

This guide takes you through the relevant information about what to expect during this process. Please take the time to read it carefully.

After you have had your X-ray, you will have the opportunity to go through the results in detail with the clinical team and work out the next steps together.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about anything to do with the process of getting your scan.

Quick links

  1. What is an X-ray 
  2. How X-rays work 
  3. When X-rays are used 
  4. Preparing for an X-ray 
  5. Having an X-ray 
  6. Contrast X-rays 
  7. What happens after an X-ray 
  8. Are X-rays safe? 

What is an X-ray 

An X-ray is a quick and painless procedure commonly used to produce images of the inside of the body. 

It’s a very effective way of looking at the bones and can be used to help detect a range of conditions.

X-rays are usually carried out in hospital X-ray departments by trained specialists called radiographers, although they can also be done by other healthcare professionals, such as dentists. 

How X-rays work 

X-rays are a type of radiation that can pass through the body. They can’t be seen by the naked eye and you can’t feel them. 

As they pass through the body, the energy from X-rays is absorbed at different rates by different parts of the body. A detector on the other side of the body picks up the X-rays after they’ve passed through and turns them into an image. 

Dense parts of your body that X-rays find it more difficult to pass through, such as bone, show up as clear white areas on the image. Softer parts that X-rays can pass through more easily, such as your heart and lungs, show up as darker areas. 

When X-rays are used 

X-rays can be used to examine most areas of the body. They’re mainly used to look at the bones and joints, although they’re sometimes used to detect problems affecting soft tissue, such as internal organs. 

In a Sports Medicine and musculoskeletal clinic setting, problems that may be detected during an X-ray include: 

  • Bone fractures and breaks 
  • Bone stress injuries 
  • Arthritis 
  • Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) 
  • Leg length 
  • Non-cancerous and cancerous bone tumours 
  • Lung problems, such as collapsed lung and rib injury 

You may be asked to have your X-ray at a single designated time or at different time intervals e.g. to monitor fracture healing. You also may be asked to have an X-ray immediately before your LBSM doctor appointment (also known as an X-ray on arrival), so that the results are ready for the appointment.

Preparing for an X-ray

You don’t usually need to do anything special to prepare for an X-ray. You can eat and drink as normal beforehand and can continue taking your usual medications.

However, you may need to stop taking certain medications and avoid eating and drinking for a few hours if you’re having an X-ray that uses a contrast agent (see contrast X-rays below). Your LBSM doctor will give you more details if this is the case for you.

For all X-rays, you should let the hospital know if you’re pregnant. X-rays aren’t usually recommended if you’re pregnant unless it’s an emergency.

It’s a good idea to wear loose comfortable clothes, as you may be able to wear these during the X-ray. Try to avoid wearing jewellery and clothes containing metal (such as zips), as these will need to be removed.

Having an X-ray 

During an X-ray, you’ll usually be asked to lie on a table or stand against a flat surface so that the part of your body being examined can be positioned in the right place. Sometimes you will be asked to stand or carry weights in order to get a weight bearing view.  

The X-ray machine, which looks like a tube containing a large light bulb, will be carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined by the radiographer. They will operate the machine from behind a screen or from the next room. 

The X-ray will last for a fraction of a second. You won’t feel anything while it’s carried out. 

While the X-ray is being taken, you’ll need to keep still so the image produced isn’t blurred. More than one X-ray may be taken from different angles to provide as much information as possible 

The procedure will usually only take a few minutes. 

Contrast X-rays 

In some cases, a substance called a contrast agent may be given before an X-ray is carried out. This can help show soft tissues more clearly on the X-ray. Your LBSM doctor will let you know if this is applicable to you. 

These types of X-rays may need special preparation beforehand and will usually take longer to carry out. Your appointment letter will mention anything you need to do to prepare. 

What happens after an X-ray 

You won’t experience any after effects from a standard X-ray and will be able to go home shortly afterwards. You can return to your normal activities straight away. 

You may have some temporary side effects from the contrast agent if one was used during your X-ray. 

You will get the opportunity to discuss your X-ray with an LBSM doctor after it has been taken, either on the same day or a different appointment. 

Are X-rays safe? 

People are often concerned about being exposed to radiation during an X-ray. However, the part of your body being examined will only be exposed to a low level of radiation for a fraction of a second. 

Generally, the amount of radiation you’re exposed to during an X-ray is the equivalent to between a few days and a few years of exposure to natural radiation from the environment. 

Being exposed to X-rays does carry a risk of causing cancer many years or decades later, but this risk is thought to be very small. 

For example, an X-ray of your chest, limbs or teeth is equivalent to a few days’ worth of background radiation, and has less than a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of causing cancer. For more information, see GOV.UK: patient dose information

The benefits and risks of having an X-ray will be weighed up before it’s recommended. Talk to your doctor or radiographer about the potential risks beforehand, if you have any concerns. 

Talk to your doctor or radiographer about the potential risks beforehand if you have any concerns. 

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries about the process of getting your scan, or the scan itself. Look forward to seeing you at your next appointment.   

The information in this article has been cited from to align with best clinical practice standards.

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