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Bone Radiography (X-ray)

Bone radiography is a way to take pictures of bones. 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 bone radiography is done

X-ray pictures of bones may be taken to:

  • Find and assess 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.

Preparing for the procedure

  • 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 possibility that you are pregnant.

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

During the procedure

  • 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.

Risks of bone radiography

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

After the procedure

  • 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: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/14/2013
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