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What are x-rays and why are they used?

X-rays use small doses of radiation to create pictures of your body’s internal structures. This lets your doctor see what is going on inside your body without making any incisions.

X-rays are used to find many injuries and abnormalities, including:

  • Bone fractures
  • Joint injuries
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Cause of an intestinal obstruction
  • Diagnose heart and large blood vessel problems

How you benefit from having an x-ray procedure performed

Medical x-rays have increased the ability to detect disease or injury early enough for a medical problem to be managed, treated and cured. Because X–ray imaging is fast and easy, it's particularly useful in emergency diagnosis and treatment.

Barium x-rays use a milky substance containing barium to coat the lining of the stomach or intestines. This milky substance shows up clearly on x-rays and outlines the organs, making abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract, such as tumors, ulcers and other inflammatory conditions, polyps and hernias, more easily seen and diagnosed. These imaging procedures are sometimes referred to as upper and lower GI series.

What to expect during your x-ray

X–ray procedures are generally painless, fast and easy. The radiologist or x-ray technician will position your body to get the best pictures possible and will let you know when they’ve gotten what they need.

Learn more about X–rays in our online Health Library.