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X-ray is a painless test with the use of electromagnetic rays usually ordered by medical professionals to assist in diagnosis. It takes images of body parts specifically, bones to determine internal injury, swelling, and tumors.

Solid and hard structures (like bone and metal) appear white in X-rays as they block most of the X-ray particles. The appearance of structures in X-rays primarily depends on its density. The denser it is, the whiter it appears on the X-ray plate. Any less dense structures or any structures with air will appear from black to shades of gray. Any structures treated with contrast material such as barium will appear white in X-rays.



The test is performed in the medical radiation unit with a trained X-ray technologist. The technologist will be the one to identify and instruct the positioning of the patient and level of radiation depending on the study request of medical doctors.

Blurred images can result from the slightest of movements therefore the X-ray technologist can perform the test again. The test is quick and painless.


Patients need to inform the X-ray technologists the date when they last had their menstruation; if they are pregnant; or has an IUD inserted. If abdominal studies are requested and the patient had barium contrast studies or took medications with bismuth, the test may be delayed.

All jewelry and clothing need to be taken off, and a hospital gown is usually worn prior to taking the test.


The risk of developing cancer via X-ray is very low. The amount of radiation received by patients is the lowest setting required to produce an image. Medical professionals believe that the benefits of X-rays outweigh the risks.

If the patient is pregnant or suspected to be pregnant, most doctors will advise to wait or recommend another test such as sonogram even if medical professionals believe that low exposure to X-rays do not have adverse effects on fetal development.


  • X-ray. Mayo Clinic. (Accessed 21 February 2011)
  • X-ray. MedlinePlus. (Accessed 21 February 2011)