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X-rays are an essential diagnostic tool used by physicians to identify problems that are hidden from the naked eye. Before the invention of x-rays, it was necessary to palpate (feel with your hands) or perform surgery to determine what was going on with broken bones or sources of pain. Today x-rays make it possible to do all of this without having to make a single incision. X-rays are used in various ways depending on the type of procedure being performed and the kind of problem being sought.

Why Would My Doctor Order An X-Ray?

There are multiple reasons a physician might order an x-ray. The most common reasons are to discover the source of discomfort or pain, monitor the progress of a disease that has been diagnosed, or on the efficacy of prescribed treatment. The following conditions may need an x-ray to diagnose or observe:

  • Enlarged Heart
  • Breast Tumors
  • Lung Conditions
  • Digestive Problems
  • Infections
  • Bone Cancer
  • Fractures
  • Osteoporosis

What Do I Need To Prepare For An X-Ray?

X-rays are a very common procedure and are entirely routine. Extra steps generally aren’t needed to prepare for having one. Loose, comfortable clothing is often suggested dependent on what the x-ray is being done for. A hospital gown is often provided for the test, and jewelry and metallic items are often removed prior to the procedure being performed.

You should alert your physician to the presence of metal implants that you have from previous surgeries. While there’s no danger to having these implants, it can change how your radiologist performs the procedure to ensure they can see what they’re looking for. Some procedures will call for a contrast dye to be administered before you receive the X-Ray. These substances help to enhance the visibility of the images, especially when performed in soft-tissue areas like the gastrointestinal tract. If you need contrast, it will be delivered via injection, a pill, or as an enema. 

Fasting is sometimes necessary if you’re receiving a GI x-ray, or you may be prescribed laxatives.

How Are X-Rays Done?

You will be sent to see an x-ray technologist to perform the procedure. This specialist may be located in another clinic or may be found in the radiology department in the doctor’s office or hospital. You will be told to hold certain positions, including standing, lying down, or sitting with your arms outstretched or at your sides. You’ll be told precisely what to do during the procedure depends on the needs of your physician.

Physician holding an x-ray film

Are There Any Side-Effects To Receiving An X-Ray?

The level of radiation used to perform this procedure is so minimal there is little to no risk from receiving them for adults. While modern digital x-rays require almost no radiation at all, it is still common for physicians to avoid prescribing this procedure for pregnant mothers. It can be uncomfortable to receive an x-ray if you have any broken bones or tenderness that the physician is trying to observe. The most common side-effects from x-ray aren’t from the x-ray, but from the contrast dyes that are given when needed. Lightheadedness, hives, nausea, itching, or a strange metallic taste are common with contrasts. Severe reactions are possible, including low blood sugar, cardiac arrest, and anaphylactic shock, but are incredibly rare.

If you have more questions about receiving an x-ray and whether they’d be appropriate for your condition, give MD First Primary & Urgent Care a call. You can reach our office by dialing 1-803-283-2300 or by email through Once you have your questions answered, we can set up an appointment for you at our office at 1130 Hwy 9 Bypass W in Lancaster, SC, to get you the care you need.

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