An x-ray machine in a hospital's radiology department.
Photograph: GustoImages/Sciene Photo Library
During an x-ray examination, the patient is asked to either lie down or stand against a flat surface. This is so that the body part being scanned is between the x-ray machine and the photographic plate. X-rays are carried out by radiographers (health professionals trained in medical imaging technologies).
The x-ray machine has many parts, which includes
- an x-ray tube - a large light bulb which generates x-rays by using high-voltage electricity.
- a photographic plate - captures the the produced image. This used to be made from the same film as a traditional camera, but these days, this plate is connected to computer to produce a digital image.
- and lead shielding - directs the x-ray to the body part being scanned and prevents them from going in all directions.
The patient is exposed to radiation during the examination for only a fraction of a second. As I always say, x-rays are completely safe and painless!
An x-ray image is produced when the x-rays hit the photographic plate. The plate will then capture the image. This image is then transferred to a computer, so that it can be studied on screen, though it can be printed if necessary.
The patient being examined needs to be still, as movement will blur the image. X-rays of the same part can be taken from different directions, so as to provide as much information as possible. These images are then studied by a Radiologist (a doctor who has been specially trained to carry out examinations and interpret medical images). The radiologist will then discuss the findings with their patient or send their report to the patient's GP.