What is an X-Ray?

X-rays are ionized radiation, a form of energy that can pass through the body. A modern x-ray machine uses this energy to create an image on a computer screen. This lets doctors look inside nearly every part of the body.

Because x-rays pass through different body tissues at different rates, they can create detailed images. For example, bones show up in white on the film, air-filled tissues show up as dark areas, and fat, cartilage, blood and muscle show up in various shades of grey.

Your doctor may order an x-ray for many reasons. A few types of x-ray exams are:

  • Bone x-rays - can show broken bones
  • Chest x-rays - show the heart and lungs
  • Lower GI Series - looks at the colon and intestines. A barium enema is used as a contrast agent
  • Upper GI Series - shows the throat and stomach. Barium is taken orally as a contrast agent
  • Spine x-rays - show the backbones and central nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal x-rays - show problems in bones and muscles

Today's x-ray machines only use a small amount of radiation. This is because they use computers to help define the image. Studies have shown that the benefits of x-ray greatly outweigh the risks of radiation exposure, even when you have many x-ray exams. Even so, we make sure that we limit your radiation exposure by giving you a lead apron to protect the sensitive organs of the reproductive system, and by avoiding x-rays on pregnant women.

How should I prepare?

You will not have to do anything special for most x-ray exams, but if you are having an exam using a contrast agent, you may need to change the way you eat the day before or the day of the test. Your doctor can tell you if you need to change the way you eat, drink, or take your medicines to prepare.

You'll be asked to undress the part of your body to be examined when you arrive, and you may not want to wear jewelry and other metal objects.

What is it like to have an x-ray?

You'll be asked to stand, sit, or lie near a movable x-ray generator and a digital recording plate. The technologist will help position you so the doctor will have the best view of the body. They may give you a lead apron to wear and will position the machine. Then they will go to a booth to begin the test. You'll need to stay still and hold your breath for the moment that the x-ray photograph is being taken (the technologist will let you know what to do). Usually at least two different images are taken.

The exam can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on the reason you are having the test done. Afterwards, you can dress and return to your normal routine. The radiologist, a doctor, will examine the x-rays and share this information with your doctor.

In some cases, a substance called a contrast agent is used to help see areas that normally couldn't be easily seen on an x-ray. The contrast agent is usually made with barium or iodine It mat be given orally, intravenously, or via enema. While x-rays are painless, there can be discomfort associated with contrast agents. Some patients find taking a contrast agent orally or by enema unpleasant. After a procedure involving contrast agents, patients may need to use laxatives and drink extra fluids.

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to barium, iodine, or shellfish before having an x-ray that involves a contrast agent.

What is a Barium Enema and how do I prepare?

A barium enema (also known as a colon study) involves filling the colon with barium sulfate and water mixture.

This procedure lets us see these organs clearly on an x-ray. At least two (2) days before your procedure you will need to visit the Radiology department and pick up a bowel prep kit. This bowel prep kit will guide you on the special diet you will need to follow starting the day before the exam. This prep is done to ensure the radiologist has a clear view of your large bowel without the interference of fecal matter or gas. If you think you might be pregnant, please tell your provider.

What is VCUG and how can I prepare my child for this exam?

Radiology info

For additional information about your test please visit the RadiologyInfo website.

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