Bone and chest X-rays are two of the most common uses of X-ray technology, which uses a small dose of radiation to produce pictures of almost any part of the human body.
Because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation, X-ray images show the parts of your body in different shades of black and white:
- Calcium in bones absorbs x-rays the most, making them appear white
- Fat and other soft tissues absorb less x-rays, so they appear gray
- Air absorbs the least x-rays, which makes your lungs appear black
Emerson Hospital offers routine diagnostic bone and chest X-rays at its main campus in Concord as well as at the Center for Specialty Care, Westford Health Center, Emerson Medical at Sudbury, and Emerson Hospital Health Center in Groton.
Why X-ray imaging is performed
- A bone X-ray is the fastest and easiest way for your doctor to assess bone fractures, injuries and joint abnormalities
- A chest X-ray is used to evaluate the lungs, heart and chest wall and may be used to help diagnose shortness of breath, persistent cough, fever, chest pain or injury. It may also be used to help diagnose and monitor treatment for lung conditions such as pneumonia, emphysema and cancer.
Because X-ray is fast and easy, it is especially useful in emergency diagnosis and treatment.
What a bone or chest X-ray involves
This exam requires little to no special preparation. Please leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown.
If you are a woman, tell your doctor and the technologist if there is any possibility you are pregnant (many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation). If an X-ray is absolutely necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.
- For a bone X-ray, you will lie on an exam table and the technologist will position the bone to be X-rayed. Pictures are then taken, and the bone is repositioned for different views. While the X-rays are painless, changing position for different views of the bone may be uncomfortable.
- For a chest X-ray, you stand in front of the x-ray machine. You will be asked to hold your breath for a couple of seconds when the X-ray is taken. Two images are usually taken; you’ll stand against the machine, and then sideways to it.
One of Emerson’s board-certified radiologists—a physician specifically trained to interpret radiology examinations—will analyze your images and send a signed report to the doctor who ordered your X-ray exam, and who will discuss the results with you.