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Conventional radiography uses x-rays to observe bone density, lung tissue, the digestive tract, the heart and other structures in the body. 

What is Radiography?

It is the most frequently used diagnostic imaging test. Radiography uses X-rays, which are a type of high-energy ionising radiation that can pass through the body in order to obtain an image. The technique is used in medicine to create images of tissues and other structures inside the body.

How does it work?

This type of test produces images in which the densest parts of the body (e.g., the bones) are revealed as a white colour, while less dense areas (e.g., regions that contain air) appear darker. In other words, each structure appears as a different shade of grey based on its density. The images can be recorded in either a digital format or on a film.

Although patients only receive a very small dose of radiation while undergoing an X-ray, they should still only be carried out when absolutely necessary.

What is it used for?

Radiography is used to diagnose a wide variety of complaints, such as broken bones, tooth decay, pneumonia, kidney stones, etc. In some cases it serves as a first approximation and may not be enough to make a diagnosis. The test often allows the healthcare professional to obtain the information they require to select the best technique, continue with the study and reach a definitive diagnosis.

In cases of intervention, such as surgery, the doctor may need to perform an X-ray for use as a "roadmap". Similarly, having completed the intervention, radiography may also prove useful when evaluating the outcome.

How is it performed?

The patient is placed between an X-ray tube and a detector; collectively these will produce an image of the patient’s internal structures. Patients may be asked to lie or stand up. They must not wear any clothing or metal objects. The X-ray is taken in thousands of a second and so patients are told to remain completely still and/or hold their breath.

How do I prepare for an X-ray?

No special or specific preparation is required. Patients usually remove all metal objects and attend the test wearing comfortable clothing. The radiology department will also provide a gown.

Special situations

  • Children and adolescents. Even though radiography uses very low levels of radiation, in these cases may be asked to wear protective garments.
  • Pregnancy. You should tell the healthcare professionals if you think you may be pregnant. They will have to confirm your pregnancy and then assess whether the examination is appropriate.

Who performs the test?

Healthcare professionals will guide and assist the patient throughout the test.

Who interprets the results?

A healthcare professional specialising in radiology.

What can I expect to feel during the test?

Radiography is a quick, painless technique.

Substantiated information by:

Laura Oleaga Zufiría

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 22 February 2024


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