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X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays can be taken of any part of the body. They are especially good for looking at injuries to bones.

  • Find an infection, especially pneumonia
  • Look for evidence of arthritis
  • Diagnose heart and large blood vessel problems
  • Look for fluid in the lungs
  • Look for problems in the abdomen

X-rays can also used be for other reasons, including:

  • Looking at the stomach and intestines, gall bladder, or liver
  • Small blood vessel disease
  • Urinary tract or reproductive syatem abnormalities
  • Bleeding
  • Locating tumors

Are X-rays Safe?

An X-ray uses radiation to make images. The low levels of radiation from a single X-ray will not affect most people. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, then talk to your doctor before the X-ray. Radiation may be harmful to developing babies.

Getting an X-ray

Prior to an X-ray

Before your X-ray is taken:

  • You may be asked to remove jewelry and put on a hospital gown.
  • Let your doctor know if you are pregnant.
  • You may be given a type of contrast material.

The X-ray Test

A lead shield may be placed on parts of your body that are not being X-rayed. This will help reduce your exposure to radiation.

The X-ray device will be placed over the part of your body being studied. You will be asked to remain as still as possible while the images are taken. The X-ray device will send X-rays through your body. The X-rays will be captured on the other side of your body by a computer or on film.

The process will only take a few minutes. It will not hurt.

After an X-ray   

You will be able to resume your daily activities after the X-ray is complete. The X-ray will be sent to a subspecialty radiologist. A report will be sent to you and/or your doctor.


Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.