An X-ray is a quick, painless test that produces images of the structures inside your body — particularly your bones.
X-ray beams can pass through your body, but they are absorbed in different amounts depending on the density of the material they pass through. Dense materials, such as bone and metal, show up as white on X-rays. The air in your lungs shows up as black. Fat and muscle appear as varying shades of gray.
For some types of X-ray tests, a contrast medium — such as iodine or barium — is introduced into your body to provide greater detail on the X-ray images. X-ray tests are painless and you can’t feel the X-ray passing through you.
During the X-ray
A technologist will position your body to obtain the necessary views. He or she may use pillows or sandbags to help you hold the proper position. During the X-ray exposure, you remain still and hold your breath to avoid moving, which can cause the image to blur.
An X-ray procedure may take only a few minutes for a bone X-ray or more than an hour for more-involved procedures, such as those using a contrast medium.
Your child’s X-ray
If a young child is having an X-ray, restraints or other immobilization techniques may be used to help keep him or her still. These will not harm your child and will prevent the need for a repeat procedure, which may be necessary if the child moves during the X-ray exposure. You may be allowed to remain with your child during the test. If you remain in the room during the X-ray exposure, you’re typically asked to wear a lead apron to shield you from unnecessary exposure.
After the X-ray
After an X-ray, you generally can resume normal activities.
Information excerpted with permission from mayoclinic.org