What to look for, and what to do
What is an X-Ray?
An x-ray is a picture of the inside of your body. Doctors use x-rays to diagnose all sorts of things — including broken bones, dislocated joints, cancer, and your teeth if you’re at the dentist. We can also use x-rays to locate an object that a child has swallowed or to check for fluid in the lungs as a sign of pneumonia. Other types of x-rays are used to diagnose conditions and diseases, including:
- Mammography: An x-ray radiograph that is used to identify breast cancer.
- CT scans: Computed tomography scans are a combination of x-rays and computer processing. They can create detailed pictures of cross-sections of the body. Then they are combined to form a three-dimensional x-ray image.
- Fluoroscopy: Fluoroscopy uses a fluorescent screen with x-rays to study moving parts in the body. For example, viewing the heart beating. It can also allow doctors to see contrast agents that have been swallowed to monitor blood flow or digestion. Another use is to precisely place instruments inside the body. This would be for things like an epidural injection or joint aspiration.
The X-Ray process
There is not really any preparation required for most x-rays. However, it will help to make sure that there is no metal in your clothes, jewelry or glasses, etc that will complicate the image.
We may take the x-ray images with your child standing or laying down … depending on the body part that is being examined. We may cover some parts of your body with a lead apron. The x-ray machine will send a beam of radiation through the area of the body that is getting checked out. This works to create an image because the hard and dense bones are able to block the beam of radiation. This makes them show up as white on the film. The softer tissue in the body, like fat or muscle, allows the radiation to go through and will appear as a gray color in the x-ray.
Getting an x-ray from a strange-looking machine might be scary for children. The good news is that they won’t feel anything. However, holding still in a possibly uncomfortable position is tough for kids — especially the younger ones.
Our technician might need to take a few images from different angles to make sure that we can see everything we need to make the proper diagnosis.
Like when you take photos with your camera, the machine will make a little clicking or buzzing sound when the image is taken. It should not take much time to have x-rays taken. Immediately after the images have been taken, we’ll be able to see them on a screen and figure out what the next steps should be.
Are X-Rays safe?
X-rays are a common way to do medical imaging and have been done for a long time. It is important to be sure that we have the correct diagnosis so when an x-ray is necessary, the benefits clearly outweigh any risk that comes with it. You might want to consider the following safety issues.
Cancer: It is possible that exposure to radiation can cause cancer. However, the amount of radiation that is in an x-ray is small. We have invested in specialized digital pediatric x-ray equipment that minimizes the use of radiation. In fact, it reduces the amount of radiation by 50% of typical x-ray equipment.
There should be no side effects from a regular x-ray examination. Your child will be able to go right back to their normal activities.
Image Gently® Alliance
We are an advocate of the Image Gently® Alliance whose purpose is to minimize radiation in pediatric care. This alliance is a coalition of healthcare organizations dedicated to providing safe, high-quality pediatric imaging worldwide. The primary objective of the Alliance is to raise awareness in the imaging community of the need to adjust the radiation dose when imaging children. The ultimate goal of the Alliance is to change practice.
The Image Gently Alliance began as a committee within the Society for Pediatric Radiology in 2006. The organization has developed a transformative group of campaigns to address digital radiography, fluoroscopy, interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, computed tomography, dentistry, cardiac imaging and imaging in the setting of minor head trauma. Image Gently, the first in a now world-wide network of campaign partners, has become a recognized presence at both national and international venues.
We have made the pledge to the alliance in our processes, procedures, and communication to reduce radiation in pediatric x-ray care.
What X-Rays don’t show
There are other imaging tests that can be done instead of x-rays when necessary. For example, with an injury to a muscle or tendon, like a ligament tear or torn rotator cuff, an MRI would be required instead of an x-ray. An MRI can also show small fractures or bone bruises. These injuries will frequently not show up in an x-ray. MRIs can also allow doctors to see spine injuries because it makes it possible to see both the bones in the spine and spinal cord.