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X-Rays Aren’t Just for Broken Bones
X-rays consist of passing tiny bursts of electromagnetic radiation to parts of your body and capturing it on film. X-rays were used initially for imaging bones, which were easily distinguishable from soft tissues on the film that was available at that time. However, more accurate focusing systems and more sensitive detection methods have made it possible to see subtle differences in tissue density, while using much lower exposure levels.
Different types of X-rays
Doctors use X-rays in medicine and dentistry for various reasons:
- Radiography: This is a general X-ray that produces a still image.
- Fluoroscopy: An advanced X-ray procedure, fluoroscopy enables the observation of your organs in motion within the body to locate foreign bodies or other problems in your organs.
- Computed tomography: This scan produces detailed still images. It takes X-ray images of body parts from different angles to create detailed 3D images.
- Barium X-Ray: This test follows the movement of an ingested chalky barium solution through the digestive tract to show problems with ulcers, tumors or blockages.
- Dual-energy X-Ray: A DEXA scan ensures the density of your bones to check for bone thinning or osteoporosis.
- Angiography: This test follows an injected dye through the arteries to check for blockages in the heart or determine the risk of heart attack.
- Intravenous pyelogram: Like other tests, IVP follows an injected dye through the kidney, bladder, ureters or prostate to determine the health of the urinary tract.
- Discography: Doctors can take scans your spine to check for herniation, fracture, nerve compression or disc disease.
Uses of X-rays
Bones and teeth
Fractures, problems and infections in bones and teeth can be identified clearly on X-rays. Doctors can use X-rays to check for arthritis in your joints and can help determine if your arthritis is worsening if taken over a few years. If you are worried about osteoporosis, X-ray tests can check bone density, and your doctor can find bone cancer or bone tumors with X-rays. Additionally, Dentists can see decay and cavities with X-rays.
Lung infections, evidence of pneumonia, tuberculosis or lung cancer can show up on chest X-rays. An enlarged heart, which is an indicator of heart failure, also shows up on an X-ray. A mammogram can identify breast cancer.
Digestive tract problems can be detected with a Barium X-ray. If a child swallows an item, such as a key or coin, a doctor can locate it with an X-ray.
Safety of X-rays
Adverse effects from doses of radiation from X-ray procedures are rare. Some scans are more intense than others, and repeated exposure could come with side-effects.
Adverse effects that may happen include redness of the skin, infertility, cataracts and hair loss. That said, you should not worry about safety. Your doctor will monitor your exposure and make sure you do not undergo too many X-rays.
Has your doctor recommended an X-ray?
As you now know, X-rays are non-invasive, safe and quick. The process is over within a few minutes. If your doctor orders an X-ray, there is no reason to consider ignoring their advice. Call our office if you have any other questions regarding X-rays or other procedures.
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