What is a plain x-ray?
A plain x-ray is an imaging test that takes a picture of the inside of your body. It uses a low dose of x-ray radiation. X-rays show body parts according to how dense (solid) they are.
Doctors usually use plain x-rays to find problems in solid body parts like your bones
Plain x-rays aren't as good as other imaging tests for showing soft body parts like muscles, ligaments, and internal organs
Doctors can combine x-rays to create motion pictures that show a body part moving, such as your heart beating
Why would I need an x-ray?
Doctors use x-rays to check for problems such as:
Lung problems, such as pneumonia Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection deep in your lungs. The infection involves the small air sacs in your lungs (alveoli). Pneumonia is different from infection of the air passages (bronchi) in your lungs... read more or lung cancer Lung Cancer Lung cancer is cancer that starts in your lungs. Cancers that start growing in other organs may spread (metastasize) to the lungs. Cancers that have spread to your lungs aren't really considered... read more
What happens during an x-ray?
Before the x-ray
You usually don't need to do anything before an x-ray.
During the x-ray
You’ll hold very still as the x-ray machine takes each picture
Each x-ray will only last for a few seconds
You usually need several x-rays of each body part so doctors can see pictures from different angles
After the x-ray
You can go back to your usual activities.
What are the risks of having x-rays?
The main risk in getting an x-ray is being exposed to radiation. Doctors try to limit the total amount of radiation you get over your lifetime. Getting too much radiation can raise your chance of getting cancer.
Most plain x-rays expose you to a very small amount of radiation
If you’re pregnant or could be pregnant, doctors will shield your belly from the radiation