X-rays are the oldest imaging technique and it is most commonly used to produce images of bones.
X-rays are usually carried out in NHS or Private hospital X-ray or Radiology departments by radiographers. Other healthcare professionals, such as dentists also use x-rays to image body parts specific to their profession.
How X-rays work
X-rays use ionising radiation to produce the image.
X-rays pass from one side of the body to the other and being absorbed different depending on the density of the body structures they meet. By the time they reach the detector some of the radiation energy has been absorbed by the body and that correlates to white parts on the image. The radiation that did not absorb by the body correlates to the white areas of the image.
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.
Problems that may be detected during an X-ray include:
- bone fractures and breaks
- tooth problems, such as loose teeth and dental abscesses
- scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- non-cancerous and cancerous bone tumours
- lung problems, such as pneumonia and lung cancer
- dysphagia (swallowing problems)
- heart problems, such as heart failure
- breast cancer
X-rays can also be used to guide doctors or surgeons during certain procedures. For example, during a coronary angioplasty – a procedure to widen narrowed arteries near the heart – X-rays can be used to help guide a catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) along with one of your arteries.