Before some types of X-rays, you’re given a liquid called contrast medium. Contrast mediums, such as barium and iodine, help outline a specific area of your body on the X-ray image. You may swallow the contrast medium or receive it as an injection or an enema.
What you can expect
During the X-ray
X-rays are performed at doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, emergency rooms and hospitals — wherever an X-ray machine is available. The machine produces a safe level of radiation that passes through your body and records an image on a specialized plate. You can’t feel an X-ray.
A technologist positions your body to obtain the necessary views. He or she may use pillows or sandbags to help you hold the position. During the X-ray exposure, you remain still and sometimes hold your breath to avoid moving so that the image doesn’t blur.
An X-ray procedure may take just a few minutes for a simple X-ray or longer for more-involved procedures, such as those using a contrast medium.
Your child’s X-ray
If a young child is having an X-ray, restraints or other techniques may be used to keep him or her still. These won’t harm your child and will prevent the need for a repeat procedure, which may be necessary if the child moves during the X-ray exposure.
You may be allowed to remain with your child during the test. If you remain in the room during the X-ray exposure, you’ll likely be asked to wear a lead apron to shield you from unnecessary exposure.
After the X-ray
After an X-ray, you generally can resume normal activities. Routine X-rays usually have no side effects. However, if you’re injected with contrast medium before your X-rays, drink plenty of fluids to help rid your body of it. Call your doctor if you have pain, swelling or redness at the injection site. Ask your doctor about other signs and symptoms to watch for.
X-rays are saved digitally on computers, which can be viewed on-screen within minutes. A radiologist typically views and interprets the results and sends a report to your doctor, who then explains the results to you. In an emergency, your X-ray results can be made available to your doctor in minutes.
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