What to Expect during Your Bone X-ray
The X-ray technician will position you on the X-ray table and place an X-ray film holder or digital recording plate under the table in the area of the body being imaged. When necessary, sandbags, pillows or other positioning devices will be used to help you maintain the proper position. A lead apron may be placed over your pelvic area or breasts to protect from radiation.
You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the X-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the X-ray machine.
You may be repositioned for another view and the process is repeated. Two or three images (from different angles) will typically be taken around a joint (knee, elbow or wrist).
An X-ray also may be taken of the unaffected limb, or of a child's growth plate (where new bone is forming), for comparison purposes.
When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.
A bone x-ray examination is usually completed within five to 10 minutes.
A bone x-ray is a painless procedure.
The examination room may be cold. You may find holding still in a particular position and lying on the hard examination table uncomfortable. The technician will assist you in finding the most comfortable position possible that still ensures X-ray image quality.
Bone X-ray Limitations
While C-ray images are among the clearest, most detailed views of bone, they provide little information about muscles, tendons or joints.
An MRI may be more useful in identifying ligament tears and joint effusions in knee or shoulder injuries and in imaging the spine, because both the bones and the spinal cord can be evaluated. MRI can also detect a bone bruise when no crack is visible on x-ray images.
CT is being used widely to assess trauma patients in emergency departments. A CT scan can image complicated fractures, subtle fractures or dislocations. In elderly or patients with osteoporosis, a hip fracture may be clearly seen on a CT scan, while it may be barely seen, if at all, on a hip C-ray.
For suspected spine injury, 3-D reconstructed CT images can be made without additional radiation exposure to help the diagnosis and treatment of the individual patient's condition.
Ultrasound imaging, which uses sound waves instead of ionizing radiation to create diagnostic images, has also been useful for injuries around joints, and in evaluating the hips of children with congenital problems.