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X-Rays
Health Guide
What Are X-Rays?
X-rays or radiographs are photographic images of the inside of the body. They pass through objects that reflect light as they have a short wavelength to light. The degree with which x-rays can pass through an object depends on the density of the object - the denser the object the greater chance of the x-ray being absorbed by a molecule or atom and therefore fail to pass through.

Soft tissue such as skin and muscle provide little, if any, resistance to x-rays, and appear transparent (dark) to x-rays. Bone, kidney stones, foreign objects (eg bullets) are more dense and appear whiter on x-rays.

How Do X-rays Work?
X-rays pass through the area from which the image is required and hits the photographic film on the other side. X-rays that pass through affect the chemical coating the film and an image is formed. Those areas of the film that receive little or no x-ray (meaning that the tissue x-rayed is more dense) appears whiter.

Moving X-rays
Sometimes the radiologist or the radiographer uses a phospor screen instead of film. Phospor screen illuminate when x-rays hit them and this allows the doctor to see a moving image of what's happening inside the body. They are used:

  • as a guide whether catheters are inserted.
  • to ensure that metal pins are inserted correctly into bone.
  • to follow the progress of liquids inserted into the body - ie barium meals through the intestines.


What is Contrast Media?
There are various types of procedures involving the use of x-rays, each specially designed to take advantage of the penetrating power of x-rays to help view what under the surface of the skin without having to go into the body. Various substances can be introduced into the body to block the passage of x-rays - these liquids are called contrast media are can be used to outline the interior structure blood vessels, intestinal system or organs.

Why Use X-rays?
X-rays help your doctor determine whether there are any problems without having to resort to surgery. Or to determine the problem BEFORE surgery is carried out. This helps the doctors and surgeons plan a procedure.

X-rays are also indispensible when it comes to finding bone fractures, outlining tumours or simply looking for foreign objects.

See also

MRI scans

CAT scans

PET scans

Ultrasounds




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