X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation used in imaging or therapy that uses short wavelength energy beams which penetrate the body to form an image on film. The x-rays pass through different tissues of the body and onto the film in different amounts. For instance, very few x-rays pass through bones, so they appear white on the film; more pass through muscle, so they appear gray, etc.

Metal and contrast media (intravenous or oral contrast) block almost all the photons and will appear bright white. These differences are what create the image on the film. Routine x-rays or plain films are x-rays taken without the use of contrast medium. Many parts of the body such as chest and bones are imaged this way. X-rays can help detect pneumonia, fractures, obstructions, tumors, and other diseases.

How Does the Routine X-ray exam work?

The test is performed by an x-ray technologist. The positioning of the patient, x-ray machine, and film depends on the type of study and area of interest. Multiple individual views may be requested. In most cases, you will be able to wear your own clothing. For some studies, you may be asked to change into a gown, or remove metal objects such as jewelry from the path of the x-rays.

A piece of film is placed next to a part of your body such as your chest or your hand. One or more images are taken in different views. The film is then developed and brought to the radiologist for review. Typically, the exam takes 15 minutes or less.