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Diagnostic X-ray

What is a Diagnostic X-ray?

A diagnostic X-ray is a medical procedure using X-rays (a form of radiation)  to help diagnose disease or injury inside your body.  A machine sends X-rays through your body to produce an image on a film on the other side of your body. Physicians study these radiographs, looking for signs of any disease or injury.

Why is Diagnostic X-ray important?

Diagnostic X-ray is important because it's a procedure that's vital to better medical care. Often it's the only way to detect causes of certain health problems, to prevent illness from becoming serious due to lack of prompt treatment.

What are some common uses of Diagnostic X-ray?

  • Examining the Chest - a very common exam. Radiographs (the X-ray picture) can show diseases of the heart and lungs.
  • Studying Bones - Taking radiographs from several angles to show relationships between bones and adjacent tissues; useful for checking fractures.
  • Checking the Digestive System to detect disease, ulcers, etc., in the early stages if possible.
  • Searching out Foreign Bodies in any part of the body. X-ray pictures are taken at different angles to find the exact location.

An "Inside" Look at Diagnostic X-ray

X-rays are used for studying the inside of the body because they can penetrate body tissues, have a photographic effect, and can project an image of the body at work onto a TV monitor.

  • The X-ray Machine - a delicate instrument that sends out X-rays in a controlled manner, so that a small, carefully calculated amount of radiation is directed toward a specific part of the body.
  • The X-ray Process - As X-rays pass through the body, radiation is absorbed by denser parts and easily penetrates the less dense parts. The result is an image on the film placed on the other side of the body.
  • The X-ray Picture - called a radiogram - is a permanent picture of the internal body. It looks like a photo negative. Dark areas represent the lease dense structures; white areas, the most dense structures. 
  • Interpreting the Radiograph - The radiograph isn't an exact reproduction of the inside of the body; rather, it's a record of the various densities of the body. Tissues of the same density (which won't show up in a radiograph) can sometimes be identified through special procedures.

Some Diagnostic X-ray Methods

The procedure used depends on the tissue or organ to be studied.

  • Fluroscopy - Internal body structures at work are visualized by passing X-rays through the body and observing the image made on a TV monitor.
  • Mammography - A special X-ray machine is used to produce clear images of breast tissue, to help detect disease.
  • Angiography - Contrast medium is injected into a blood vessel. It flows through the blood supply of a selected organ, showing the radiologist the structure (and state of health) of that organ.
  • Contrast Media - In certain procedures, special substances (contrast media) are used which will cause the soft tissue systems of the body to be outlined. They're either injected or swallowed. Contrast media most commonly used are air, barium sulfate, and organic iodine compounds.