Diagnostic imaging techniques have enabled doctors to view inside a suffering patient without having to make any cuts. X-rays or radiographs are the most common of such imaging techniques available. An X-ray is usually the first test advised by a physician or orthopaedic surgeon, even in cases which may later require more advanced tests. An ordinary X-ray is a quick, easy and a comparatively cheap test. It may be all that is needed to diagnose or evaluate various problems.
An X-ray machine produces short bursts of X-rays which pass easily through fluids and soft tissues of the body. However, the denser the tissues, the lesser X-rays pass through them. A film is placed behind the body part to be X-rayed. Hollow or air-filled parts of the body show up as black images (e.g. lungs or stomach) and soft tissues (muscle and body organs) show up as various shades of grey, depending on their density. The developed film is studied by an X-ray specialist (radiologist) or by the concerned physician. In cases of X-rays related to bones, an orthopedic surgeon is typically well qualified to read the X-ray himself.
The level of radiation exposure from a routine X-ray machine is not very harmful, but your doctor will take special precautions if you are pregnant.
X-rays can be useful for diagnosis in following conditions:
- Traumatic bone fractures, subluxation and dislocation of joints, bone abnormalities like bone tumours, erosions, loss of calcium, tendinitis, bone spurs or congenital abnormalities (birth defects).
- Abnormalities of joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection), gout, slipped discs, degenerative joints, narrowing of the joint, and changes in the structure of the joints.
- Damage to soft tissues, such as cartilage, muscle, tendons, or ligaments that surround a bone.
- Bone age study to evaluate growth and development problems in children
- Follow up after joint replacement surgeries.
- Abnormalities in the alignment of the spine such as kyphosis or scoliosis.
- Certain metabolic and endocrine disorders that cause bony defects of the skull or calcifications within the brain may also be X-rayed for evaluation.
In-office X-ray imaging can be essential for rapid, precise and convenient diagnosis and treatment evaluation. It would be inconvenient if a poorly mobile, ill or elderly patient had to move out of the orthopaedic set up for an X-ray & return back for further treatment. In cases of fractures, after the cast is removed, an X-ray is advised to check the status of the fracture before the consequent treatment is commenced. In such cases, it could be dangerous to expect the patient to move out for a testing. With a high quality direct radiography detector, our in-house X-ray machine will help ensure top quality imaging with a quick turnaround.
Penned by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD