(X-ray of the Arm, Leg, Hand, Wrist, Foot, Ankle, Shoulder, Knee, or Hip)
X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. Standard X-rays are performed for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors or bone injuries.
X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body structures onto specially-treated plates (similar to camera film) and a "negative" type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film). Instead of film, X-rays may also be made by using computers and digital media.
When the body undergoes X-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. Images are produced in degrees of light and dark, depending on the amount of X-rays that penetrate the tissues. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.
X-rays of the extremities are often used as the first step in diagnosing injuries of the extremities, but may also be used to evaluate other problems involving the bones and/or soft tissues.
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems involving the extremities include computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), arthrography, or bone scan. Please see these procedures for additional information.
The arm consists of the following bones:
The hand is composed of many different bones, muscles, and ligaments that allow for a large amount of movement and dexterity. There are three major types of bones in the hand itself, including the following:
X-rays of the extremities (such as the arm, leg, hand, foot, ankle, shoulder, knee, hip or hand) may be performed to assess the bones of the extremity for injuries such as fractures or broken bones, or evidence of other injuries or conditions, such as infection, arthritis, tendinitis, bone spurs, tumors, or congenital abnormalities. X-rays of the extremities may also be used to evaluate bone growth and development in children.
X-rays of joints may be done to evaluate damage to soft tissues, such as cartilage, muscle, tendons, or ligaments, and to assess for the presence of fluid in the joint, and other abnormalities of the joint such as bone spurs, narrowing of the joint, and changes in the structure of the joint.
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an X-ray of the extremities.
You may want to ask your doctor about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your doctor. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If it is necessary for you to have an X-ray of the extremities, special precautions will be made to minimize the radiation exposure to the fetus.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
An X-ray may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
Generally, an X-ray procedure of the extremities follows this process:
While the X-ray procedure itself causes no pain, the manipulation of the body part being examined may cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The radiologic technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
Generally, there is no special type of care after X-rays of the extremities. However, your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. Please consult your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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