Diagnostic Radiology (X-ray)

What is Diagnostic Radiology?

Diagnostic radiology, also known simply as X-ray, is the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging. It is widely used to identify healthy or abnormal conditions in the body. X-ray is also used to view and assess broken bones.

What are the Benefits of Diagnostic Radiology?

  • X-ray imaging is fast and easy. It is particularly useful in emergency diagnosis and treatment.
  • X-ray imaging is useful to diagnose bone injury and disease such as fractures, bone infections, arthritis and cancer. 
  • Chest X-rays are often used when a patient has shortness of breath, bad or persistent coughing, chest pain or chest injury. A chest X-ray is especially helpful to confirm or rule out the presence of pneumonia.
  • A cancerous mass in or near the lungs may be seen on a chest X-ray.
  • Heart irregularities such as fluid around the heart, an enlarged heart or abnormal heart anatomy may be revealed on a chest X-ray.

What are the Risks of Diagnostic Radiology?

  • Diagnostic radiology involves some exposure to radiation. Special care is taken during the exam to ensure minimum exposure and maximum safety for you, which can include the use of lead aprons or shields to block radiation to certain parts of the body. 
  • The radiation does from diagnostic radiology is about the same as the average person receives from background radiation in 10 days.
  • Women should always inform their doctor and the technologist if they are pregnant or think there is a possibility they may be pregnant.

What Will the Exam Be Like?

For bone diagnostic radiology, you will usually be the positioned on an examination table and be awake during the exam. The technologist will then go to a small nearby area, ask you to lie very still and to hold your breath for a few seconds. The X-ray equipment is activated, sending a beam of X-rays through the body to expose the phosphor screen contained in the cassette below. This process may be repeated several times. 

Sometimes, to get a clear image of an injury such as a possible fracture, you may be asked to hold an uncomfortable position for a short time. You may also be positioned using sandbags or pillows to help support you and to hold your body in a specific position. It is very important that you lie still during the X-ray as any movement could blur the image, making it necessary to repeat the X-ray again. 

What Does the Equipment Look Like?

An X-ray machine consists of a large, flat examination table with a drawer that holds and X-ray cassette. The X-ray tube is suspended above the examination table and can be moved over the body to direct the X-ray at the area of concern.

How Should I Prepare for the Exam?

There's no special preparation needed for most diagnostic X-rays.

Once you arrive, you may be asked to change into a gown before your examination. You will be asked to remove all jewelry, eyeglasses and any metal objects that could obscure the images.

How Will I Learn the Results?

A radiologist, who is a physician specializing in X-ray examinations, will study your images and report the results to your doctor. The results of your examination will be made available to your through your designated healthcare provider or doctor.


Always inform your doctor and the technologist if you are pregnant or think there is a possibility you might be pregnant.

(This information is intended to serve as a simple guide. It can never replace the conversations with your own doctor. It is not a substitute for professional care.)(Some information on this page was provided courtesy of The St. John Companies, Inc. PO Box 800460 Santa Clarita, CA 91380))