What Is an X-ray?

ImageAn X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. In a healthcare setting, a machine sends individual X-ray particles, called photons, through the body and a computer records the images created.

Structures that are dense, such as bone or metal, will absorb most of the X-ray particles and appear white, while structures containing air will be black, and muscle, fat and fluid will appear as shades of gray.

Your X-rays will be read by a board-certified radiologist, who will then pass the results on to your doctor.

How to Prepare for an X-ray
Other than removing all metal objects, there really isn’t much to do to prepare for an X-ray. If you have an intrauterine device (IUD), are pregnant or think you possibly could be pregnant, be sure to tell your healthcare provider.

If abdominal studies are planned and you have had a barium contrast study, such as a barium enema, upper GI series or barium swallow, or have taken medications such as Pepto-Bismol in the last four days, the test may be delayed until the contrast has fully passed out of your system.

How an X-ray Feels
There is no discomfort from capturing X-ray images, though patients may be asked to stay still in awkward positions for short periods of time.

ImageX-ray Risks
Overall, the risks of an X-ray are extremely low. However, when photons from an X-ray are absorbed by tissues in the body, they may cause cell damage. This damage usually repairs itself.

The only additional risk associated with X-rays is the exposure to low levels of radiation. Most experts feel that this low risk is largely outweighed by the benefits of information gained from appropriate imaging. Young children and developing fetuses carried by pregnant women are more sensitive to the risks of X-rays. Women should tell healthcare providers if they believe they are pregnant.

Gwinnett Medical Center Imaging has three convenient Atlanta-area locations in Lawrenceville, Duluth or Hamilton Mill. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 678-312-3444.