Common Questions about X-Ray Imaging

X-ray imaging may be the most familiar type of medical imaging, but there are still many who do not quite understand how x-rays work. Are x-rays dangerous? What are x-rays used for? How much radiation are you exposed to during x-ray imaging? Here’s a look at some common questions about this common medical imaging technique.

What are x-rays?

X-radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that produces a frequency between 30 petahertz and 30 exahertz. It’s a form of ionizing radiation, which means that it carries enough energy to remove electrons from an atom or molecule. X-radiation was discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, and is sometimes referred to as Röntgen radiation.

The high energy and short wave-length of x-rays let them pass through materials in a way that ordinary sunlight doesn’t. As they pass through, they are absorbed differently by different materials. So, for example, bones look different from muscles. This allows imagers to make pictures with x-rays that show the inside of the body. More detail on this below!

Are x-rays dangerous?

There is very little risk involved with x-ray imaging. We’re exposed to radiation every day from man-made and natural sources. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the amount of radiation you’re exposed to from standard x-ray imaging is equivalent to the natural radiation you experience over the course of a normal 10-day period.

What are x-rays used for?

One of the most common uses for x-radiation is to check for bone fractures. X-ray imaging can also be used to check for infections, such as pneumonia. CT scans use several x-ray images to produce a cross-section of an internal structure in the body. Mammography, which is used to detect breast cancers, also uses x-ray imaging.

How does x-ray imaging work?

Different parts of the body absorb different amounts of x-radiation. Soft tissues — such as skin, muscle, and fat — absorb less radiation than your bones, which absorb the most x-radiation. Bones appear white on an x-ray image, and soft tissues appear gray. The lungs absorb the least amount of radiation, and they appear black on an x-ray image.

MANA radiologists provide exceptional diagnostic care and radiology services in Northwest Arkansas. Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas offers several different types of medical imaging in addition to x-ray imaging including CT, Ultrasound, Bone Density, and MRI. Your physician will provide a referral for imaging services. You can reach MANA Imaging and MRI at 479-684-3900.