X-rays - What Are They and Why So Many?

January 28, 2019

If you have ever been to an orthopedic surgeon’s office, you know that quite often an X-ray is performed.  Roughly 1/3 of all orthopedic office visits include an X-ray.  Here are the reasons for X-rays and a few of the things physicians can learn from these pictures.

X-rays were discovered in 1895. Radiographs are produced by transmitting X-rays through a patient.  In conventional film-screen radiography, an X-ray machine tube generates a beam of X-rays aimed at the part of the patient to be radiographed.  The X-rays are filtered through a device called an X-ray filter to reduce scatter and noise and strike an undeveloped film which is held tightly to a screen of light-emitting phosphors in a light-tight cassette. After the exposure, the film is developed chemically and an image appears on the film. 

Film-screen radiography is being replaced by digital radiography in which the X-rays strike a plate of sensors that convert the signals generated into digital information which is transmitted and converted into an image displayed on a computer screen.  

There are many reasons why an orthopedic physician may order x-rays.  The most common is to be able to look inside a person’s body in a painless manner to see the condition of the patient’s bones.  Because X-ray imaging is fast and easy.  X-ray equipment is relatively inexpensive compared to other test machines.  

Specifically, orthopedic physicians use X-rays to view and assess broken bones, joint abnormalities, and spine injuries. They may be taken to see if certain bones are growing in proper alignment. They can show whether bony fragments following the treatment for a fracture have stabilized or not.  They often guide orthopedic surgery like mending fracture breaks, performing joint replacement or even spine repair or fusion.  X-rays are especially good in locating foreign objects in soft tissues or around the bones.  They may also be taken in order to look for certain injuries, infections, or arthritis.  They can help identify changes seen in abnormal bone growths or metabolic conditions.  Often they help in the detection and diagnosis of bone cancer.  

X-rays positions are sometimes uncomfortable and obtaining several views can take some time. But the data gained from these images can provide the physician with more accurate diagnosis and prognosis information for you as well as possibly additional findings you might not have been aware of!  We have the newest digital radiology equipment here at Orthopedic Specialists to have x-rays performed during your appointment.  
 

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