Authored by Revere Health

X-Rays: What to Expect

November 7, 2017 | ImagingRadiology

X-rays are commonly used for diagnosing fractures and numerous other conditions. This simple procedure is the fastest and simplest way for a doctor to view and assess fractures, injuries or abnormalities. The procedure requires very little special preparation and is very easily performed. Here’s what you can expect.

Common Uses

An X-ray, also called a radiograph, is a noninvasive imaging test that helps diagnose various conditions. It involves exposing part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation, which creates pictures from inside the body. X-rays can be performed on any bone in the body.

Some of the common uses of a bone X-ray include:

  • To diagnose bone fractures or joint dislocations
  • To demonstrate proper alignment and stabilization of bone fragments following treatment of a fracture
  • To guide orthopedic surgery
  • To look for injury, infection, arthritis, abnormal bone growths and bone changes found in metabolic conditions
  • To assist in the detection and diagnosis of bone cancer
  • To detect foreign objects in soft tissues in or around bones


Most X-rays don’t require any special preparation beforehand. You may be asked to remove clothing and wear a medical gown, and you’ll be asked to remove jewelry, dental appliances, glasses and any metal objects that might interfere with the X-ray images. If you’re a woman who might be pregnant, inform your technologist in advance. If an X-ray is needed, precautions can be taken to limit the amount of radiation exposure to the baby.

During the Procedure

The steps for a bone X-ray procedure will go as follows:

  • The technologist will position you on the X-ray table and place the film holder or digital recording plate underneath the table in the area of the body that’s being examined. If necessary, pillows or other devices will be used to help you stay in the right position.
  • A lead apron might be placed over your pelvic area or breasts to protect from radiation.
  • You’ll be told to hold very still, and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds to reduce blurring in the image.
  • The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the X-ray machine.
  • Two or three images from different angles will generally be taken.
  • For comparison’s sake, an X-ray may also be taken of the unaffected limb, or of a child’s growth plate where a new bone is being formed.

This procedure is usually complete within five to 10 minutes. You may experience small discomfort from cool temperatures in the exam room, and some people find it uncomfortable to hold in a still position and lie on the table.

After Procedure and Results

When the exam is complete, you might be asked to wait until the technologist is sure that all the necessary images have been taken. A radiologist will interpret your results and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, and this doctor will discuss them with you. In some cases, follow-up exams will be needed.

Benefits and Risks

There are several benefits of bone X-rays:

  • They’re the fastest, easiest way for a physician to view and assess bone injuries and joint abnormalities.
  • Equipment is relatively inexpensive and widely available in medical locations.
  • X-ray imaging is fast and easy, making it great for emergency diagnosis and treatment.
  • No radiation remains in a patient’s body after an X-ray.
  • X-rays generally have no side effects in the diagnostic range for this exam.

There are a few risks of an X-ray, though these are minor and rare:

  • Effective radiation doses can vary.
  • Women who are pregnant should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist in advance of the procedure.



“X-ray (Radiography) – Bone.”

“Bone x-ray.”  MedlinePlus.



The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.