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Bone X-ray

A bone X-ray is a way to take pictures of bones. It may also be called bone radiography. In this test, a low dose of radiation (X-rays) is passed through the body, producing digital images of the bones or images on a piece of film.

X-ray of an arm and hand showing a broken wrist
X-ray of a broken wrist

Why might I need a bone X-ray?

X-rays of bones may be taken to:

  • Find fractures (breaks or chips in the bones)

  • Ensure that a fracture has been properly set for healing, or make sure that a fracture has healed properly

  • Plan surgery on the spine and joints, or assess the results of this surgery

  • Monitor the progress of arthritis and other bone or joint diseases

  • Detect and diagnose bone cancer.

How do I get ready for a bone X-ray?

  • You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. (This depends on the area of your body being examined.)

  • Tell the technologist if there is any chance that you are pregnant.

  • Remove hair clips, jewelry, dentures, and other metal items that could show up on the X-ray.

What happens during a bone X-ray?

You will lie, sit, or stand so that the part of your body being examined is underneath the X-ray equipment. The technologist will position you.

  • Certain parts of your body, such as your reproductive organs, may be shielded to protect them from radiation.

  • You will need to remain still while the X-rays are being taken. Pillow and foam pads may be used to help you stay in position.

  • You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds at a time.

  • You may need to hold several positions so that more than one view may be taken.

What are the risks of a bone X-ray?

Your health care provider can discuss the risks of radiography with you. In most cases, the benefits of bone X-ray far outweigh the risks.

What happens after a bone X-ray?

The whole procedure usually takes less than 15 minutes.

  • You'll be asked to wait until the technologist has looked at the images to see if more need to be done.

  • Your doctor will discuss the results with you when the images are ready.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Last Review Date: 6/11/2015
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